New discovery linked to DNA repair and cancer

May 01, 2008
New discovery linked to DNA repair and cancer
The newly discovered human hSSB1 protein is thought to resemble the structure of the SSB protein pictured here (DNA binding area is shown in red).

Scientists have discovered a new protein in humans that plays an important role in repairing DNA damage that could lead to cancer.

Professor Malcolm White of the University of St Andrews led the discovery alongside an international team from the Queensland Institute for Medical Research in Brisbane, Australia. The study is reported online by Nature.

Professor White and Dr Kum Kum Khanna in Brisbane discovered the protein, named hSSB1, when searching the human genome for ancient classes of proteins. They found a small gene, which had previously gone unnoticed, encoding a novel DNA binding protein that bore a strong resemblance to proteins from a group of microbes called Archaea.

The human hSSB1 gene was cloned and the protein analysed. hSSB1 binds to the single stranded form of the genetic material DNA, which is formed when DNA is damaged in the cell. The protein is thought to work by signalling to other proteins that damage has occurred, leading to important cellular responses. Cells deficient in hSSB1 become hypersensitive to DNA damage and die rapidly.

"When we discovered this gene we thought it might be important for DNA repair and genome stability, but we were amazed by just how important it seems to be," said Professor White, of the Centre for Biomolecular Sciences at St Andrews. "We identified the gene as a direct result of some basic research on DNA repair in micro-organisms. This emphasises the importance of supporting fundamental research."

Dr Derek Richard, formerly of St Andrews and now a researcher at the QIMR, added "The next challenge is to find out how it signals that DNA is damaged, and determine if it plays a role in the development of cancer or in patients' responses to chemotherapy and radiotherapy."

Source: University of St Andrews

Explore further: Gene clues to glaucoma risk

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New functions for chromatin remodelers

Aug 28, 2014

Large molecular motors consisting of up to a dozen different proteins regulate access to the genome, which is essential for the transcription of genes and for the repair of DNA damage. Susan Gasser and her ...

A better understanding of cell to cell communication

Aug 22, 2014

Researchers of the ISREC Institute at the School of Life Sciences, EPFL, have deciphered the mechanism whereby some microRNAs are retained in the cell while others are secreted and delivered to neighboring ...

Recommended for you

A nucleotide change could initiate fragile X syndrome

17 hours ago

Researchers reveal how the alteration of a single nucleotide—the basic building block of DNA—could initiate fragile X syndrome, the most common inherited form of intellectual disability. The study appears ...

Gene clues to glaucoma risk

Aug 31, 2014

Scientists on Sunday said they had identified six genetic variants linked to glaucoma, a discovery that should help earlier diagnosis and better treatment for this often-debilitating eye disease.

Mutation disables innate immune system

Aug 29, 2014

A Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich team has shown that defects in the JAGN1 gene inhibit the function of a specific type of white blood cells, and account for a rare congenital immune deficiency that ...

Study identifies genetic change in autism-related gene

Aug 28, 2014

A new study from Bradley Hospital has identified a genetic change in a recently identified autism-associated gene, which may provide further insight into the causes of autism. The study, now published online in the Journal of ...

NIH issues finalized policy on genomic data sharing

Aug 27, 2014

The National Institutes of Health has issued a final NIH Genomic Data Sharing (GDS) policy to promote data sharing as a way to speed the translation of data into knowledge, products and procedures that improve health while ...

User comments : 0