Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Researchers discover how key enzyme repairs sun-damaged DNA

Researchers have long known that humans lack a key enzyme -- one possessed by most of the animal kingdom and even plants -- that reverses severe sun damage.

For the first time, researchers have witnessed how this enzyme works at the atomic level to repair sun-damaged DNA.

The discovery holds promise for future sunburn remedies and skin cancer prevention.

In the early online edition of the journal Nature, Ohio State University physicist and chemist Dongping Zhong and his colleagues describe how they were able to observe the enzyme, called photolyase, inject a single electron and proton into an injured strand of DNA. The two subatomic particles healed the damage in a few billionths of a second.

"It sounds simple, but those two atomic particles actually initiated a very complex series of chemical reactions," said Zhong, the Robert Smith Associate Professor of Physics, and associate professor in the departments of chemistry and biochemistry at Ohio State. "It all happened very fast, and the timing had to be just right."

Exactly how photolyases repair the damage has remained a mystery until now.

"People have been working on this for years, but now that we've seen it, I don't think anyone could have guessed exactly what was happening," Zhong said.

He and his colleagues synthesized DNA in the lab and exposed it to ultraviolet light, producing damage similar to that of sunburn, then added photolyase enzymes. Using ultrafast light pulses, they took a series of "snapshots" to reveal how the enzyme repaired the DNA at the atomic level.

Ultraviolet (UV) light damages skin by causing chemical bonds to form in the wrong places along the DNA molecules in our cells.

This study has revealed that photolyase breaks up those errant bonds in just the right spots to cause the atoms in the DNA to move back into their original positions. The bonds are then arranged in such a way that the electron and proton are automatically ejected out of the DNA helix and back into the photolyase, presumably so it could start the cycle over again and go on to heal other sites.

All plants and most animals have photolyase to repair severe sun damage. Everything from trees to bacteria to insects enjoys this extra protection. Only mammals lack the enzyme.

Humans do possess some enzymes that can undo damage with less efficiency. But we become sunburned when our DNA is too damaged for those enzymes to repair, and our skin cells die. Scientists have linked chronic sun damage to DNA mutations that lead to diseases such as skin cancer.

Now that researchers know the mechanism by which photolyase works, they might use that information to design drugs or lotions that heal sun damage, Zhong said.

Normal sunscreen lotions convert UV light to heat, or reflect it away from our skin. A sunscreen containing photolyase could potentially heal some of the damage from UV rays that get through.

Perhaps ironically, photolyase captures light of a different wavelength -- visible light, in the form of photons -- to obtain enough energy to launch the healing electron and proton into the DNA that has been damaged by UV light.

Researchers knew that visible light played a role in the process -- hence the term "photo" in the enzyme's name -- but nobody knew exactly how, until now.

hong's coauthors on the paper include postdoctoral researchers Jiang Li, Xunmin Guo, and Lijuan Wang, and doctoral students Zheyun Liu and Chuang Tan, all of Ohio State; and Aziz Sancar, MD, of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill School of Medicine.

This work was funded in part by the National Institutes of Health and the Packard Foundation.

Contact: Dongping Zhong, (614) 292-3044;
Written by Pam Frost Gorder, (614) 292-9475;

Dongping Zhong | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Make way for the mini flying machines
21.03.2018 | American Chemical Society

nachricht New 4-D printer could reshape the world we live in
21.03.2018 | American Chemical Society

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

Im Focus: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

TRAPPIST-1 planets provide clues to the nature of habitable worlds

21.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

The search for dark matter widens

21.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Natural enemies reduce pesticide use

21.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>