Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Raising the alarm when DNA goes bad

14.08.2009
EMBL scientists identify a rapid response team that monitors and quickly responds to DNA damage

Our genome is constantly under attack from things like UV light and toxins, which can damage or even break DNA strands and ultimately lead to cancer and other diseases.

Scientists have known for a long time that when DNA is damaged, a key enzyme sets off a cellular ‘alarm bell’ to alert the cell to start the repair process, but until recently little was known about how the cell detects and responds to this alarm. In a study published today in Nature Structural and Molecular Biology, researchers at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg, Germany, have identified a whole family of proteins capable of a direct response to the alarm signal.

Our genome is a huge repository of information guiding the construction and function of all the cells in our bodies. Cells sustain many hits to their DNA every day, which can lead tomutations, so they maintain a fleet of DNA repair machinery that can be rapidly mobilised and sent to damaged sites in an emergency.

Because our DNA is so long and unwieldy, it needs to be packaged up with proteins and organised into a complex structure called chromatin. Scientists have known for 50 years that one component of chromatin, an enzyme known as PARP1, is activated by DNA damage and produces a molecular signal, called PAR, which raises the alarm at the site of the damage. In recent weeks, scientists have for the first time worked out how PAR is rapidly detected by the cell; in their Nature Structural and Molecular Biology paper, the group of Andreas Ladurner and their colleagues at EMBL have identified a whole family of proteins that respond to this signal by binding to it directly.

What these proteins share is a special region called a macrodomain. By using a laser to reproduce DNA damage in the lab, the scientists were able to follow fluorescently-labelled macrodomain proteins in cells and observed that they quickly move to the site of DNA damage. A high-resolution image, obtained by X-ray crystallography, shows how the macrodomain forms a ‘pocket’ fitting the PAR signal exactly.

Among the members of the family the researchers found a protein called histone macroH2A1.1. “This was very surprising. Histones play a major role in assembling chromatin and keeping it together, but they don’t usually have macrodomains,” says Ladurner. “The finding is particularly relevant, because it turns out that cancer cells don’t have macroH2A1.1. The fact that one member of the rapid response team that detects DNA damage is missing could contribute to the disease.”

Because macroH2A1.1 is embedded in chromatin, when it recognises PAR at DNA damage sites, it drags the complex but highly-organised tangle of chromatin with it. As a result, macroH2A1.1 condenses the chromatin environment around the damaged area.

The scientists are now trying to understand why this happens. One plausible explanation could be that by temporarily compacting the DNA, the broken ends of the DNA molecule are kept closer together. This should increase the chances of being able to repair it.

“With these findings we’ve opened up completely new perspectives to a fifty-year-old field of research,” says Ladurner. “We’re very excited of what lies ahead and hope that we’ll soon be much closer in understanding how PARP1 and macrodomains together maintain a healthy genome.”

Anna-Lynn Wegener | EMBL
Further information:
http://www.embl.org
http://www.embl.de/aboutus/news/pr_archive/2009/090813_Heidelberg/index.html

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Repairing damaged hearts with self-healing heart cells
22.08.2017 | National University Health System

nachricht Biochemical 'fingerprints' reveal diabetes progression
22.08.2017 | Umea University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Cholesterol-lowering drugs may fight infectious disease

22.08.2017 | Health and Medicine

Meter-sized single-crystal graphene growth becomes possible

22.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

Repairing damaged hearts with self-healing heart cells

22.08.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>