With 46 chromosomes and six feet of DNA to copy every time most human cells divide, its not surprising that gaps or breaks sometimes show up in the finished product – especially when the cell is under stress or dividing rapidly, as in cancer.
But what is surprising – according to Thomas Glover, Ph.D., a geneticist at the University of Michigan Medical School – is that the breaks dont always occur at random. They happen at a few specific locations on chromosomes, when cells are under stress, during the stages in the cell cycle where DNA is copied, or replicated, and the cell splits into two identical daughter cells.
Scientists call them fragile sites, but the reasons for their inherent instability have remained a mystery. Now Glover and colleagues at the U-M Medical School and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute have discovered that a protein called ATR protects fragile sites from breaking during DNA replication. Results of their research will be published in the Dec.13 issue of Cell.
Sally Pobojewski | EurekAlert!
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