Scientists have shown in multiple contexts that DNA damage over our lifetimes is a key mechanism behind the development of cancer and other age-related diseases. Not everyone gets these diseases, because the body has multiple mechanisms for repairing the damage caused to DNA by aging, the environment and other human behaviors – but the mechanisms behind certain kinds of DNA repair have not been well-understood.
In a paper published today in the journal Nature, researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center have shown that a particular protein – called Ku – is particularly adept at healing damaged strands of DNA.
According to Dale Ramsden, PhD, associate professor in the department of biochemistry and biophysics and a member of the curriculum in genetics and molecular biology, Ku is a very exciting protein because it employs a unique mechanism to repair a particularly drastic form of DNA damage.
"Damage to DNA in the form of a broken chromosome, or double strand break, can be very difficult to repair – it is not a clean break and areas along the strand may be damaged at the level of the fundamental building blocks of DNA – called nucleotides," he notes.
Broken chromosomes can be compared to a break in a strand of yarn made up of several different threads or plies. Unless scissors are used to cut the yarn, the strand frays and may break or be damaged at several different places up and down the length of the yarn. These rough ends get "dirty" – making them harder to repair.
"It has been assumed in the past that double strand breaks are the most difficult class of DNA damage to repair and it is often presumed that they simply can not be repaired accurately," says Ramsden.
The team found that the protein Ku, which has long been appreciated for its ability to find chromosome breaks along a strand of DNA, actually removes the "dirt" at broken chromosome ends, allowing for much more accurate repair than believed possible.
"This protein actually heals at the nucleotide level as well as the level of the chromosome," says Ramsden, comparing its action to washing and disinfecting a cut before trying to sew it up to promote healing.
The team is hopeful that the discovery of this mechanism for DNA repair may lead to a target for treatment of age-related diseases caused by chromosome damage in the future.
Other team members include Steven Roberts, Natasha Strande, Martin Burkhalter, Christina Strom and Jody Havener from UNC and Paul Hasty from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.
Ellen de Graffenreid | EurekAlert!
Hunting pathogens at full force
22.03.2017 | Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung
A 155 carat diamond with 92 mm diameter
22.03.2017 | Universität Augsburg
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
22.03.2017 | Materials Sciences
22.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
22.03.2017 | Materials Sciences