Researchers discover key protein involved in DNA repair

Aug 23, 2010

In a groundbreaking study, University of Toronto researchers including Professors Daniel Durocher, Anne-Claude Gingras and Frank Sicheri have uncovered a protein called OTUB1 that blocks DNA damage in the cell -- a discovery that may lead to the development of strategies to improve some cancer therapies.

Lead author Durocher, a senior investigator at Mount Sinai Hospital’s Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute and the Thomas Kierans Research Chair in Mechanisms of Cancer Development, as well as colleagues at U of T, Mount Sinai Hospital and the Keio University in Japan, have revealed pivotal new information on how cells regulate their genetic material. In addition, the discovery improves understanding of familial breast and , as the research shows that OTUB1 inhibits the action of BRCA1, a DNA repair protein often mutated in these cancers.

“In recent years, we have been very good at finding proteins necessary for DNA repair,” said Durocher. “What we did not appreciate was that gatekeepers existed to inhibit the capacity of the cell to repair DNA. The obvious question now is: Can we enhance the ability of the cell to repair DNA by blocking OTUB1?”

The findings were reported in the August 19 issue of the prestigious international journal Nature, in which only one or two high‐impact papers are published weekly. The researchers identified OTUB1 using (or RNAi), an approach that helps scientists determine the functions of proteins and genes. After exposing cells to radiation, Durocher and his team used RNAi to discover that OTUB1 inhibits a cell's , through its role in a process known as ubiquination.

Ubiquitins are small regulatory proteins in cells. The addition of many ubiquitins onto a target
protein can act as a ‘mayday’ signal at the site of DNA damage, attracting repair mechanisms to fix the damage. Durocher’s team found that OTUB1 mutes the mayday signal by preventing the addition of ubiquitin units.

“Perhaps the biggest surprise was that OTUB1 works by an entirely new and elegant mechanism,” said Durocher. “Mutations in genes that repair our DNA can lead to cancer, infertility and immune deficiency. Therefore, inhibiting the proteins that block DNA repair could lead to new types of therapeutics for these diseases.”

For example, Durocher explained that by inhibiting OTUB1, healthy cells may be better able to withstand cancer treatment with radiation and certain chemotherapy medications such as doxorubicin. As well, inhibiting OTUB1 may lead to treatments for genetic immunodeficiency disorders such as RIDDLE syndrome, in which cells lose their ability to repair .

The study was supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

Explore further: Mutant protein in muscle linked to neuromuscular disorder

Related Stories

DNA 'molecular scissors' discovered

Jul 09, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Scientists at the University of Dundee have discovered a protein that acts as a 'molecular scissors' to repair damaged DNA in our cells, a finding which could have major implications for cancer treatments.

Researchers uncover process involved in DNA repair

Jun 29, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Every day people are exposed to chemical and physical agents that damage DNA. If it isn't repaired properly, this damage can lead to mutations that in some circumstances can lead to the development ...

Enhanced DNA-repair mechanism can cause breast cancer

Oct 15, 2007

Although defects in the "breast cancer gene," BRCA1, have been known for years to increase the risk for breast cancer, exactly how it can lead to tumor growth has remained a mystery. In the October 15, 2007, issue of the ...

Recommended for you

Bionic ankle 'emulates nature'

2 hours ago

These days, Hugh Herr, an associate professor of media arts and sciences at MIT, gets about 100 emails daily from people across the world interested in his bionic limbs.

Firm targets 3D printing synthetic tissues, organs

4 hours ago

(Medical Xpress)—A University of Oxford spin-out, OxSyBio, will develop 3D printing techniques to produce tissue-like synthetic materials for wound healing and drug delivery. In the longer term the company ...

Gate for bacterial toxins found

19 hours ago

Prof. Dr. Dr. Klaus Aktories and Dr. Panagiotis Papatheodorou from the Institute of Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology of the University of Freiburg have discovered the receptor responsible ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

kevinrtrs
1 / 5 (4) Aug 24, 2010
in which cells lose their ability to repair DNA damage.

Now this seems mightily strange - if mutations are the food of evolution, why does the cell have strong mechanisms in place to prevent such mutations from occurring? Surely if evolutionary theory is correct then mutations should be occurring quite freely and at a very fast rate in order to generate the incredible information required to develop new limbs, muscle, shapes, connections and know-how to use those new items?

Why would evolution be blocking it's own progress by putting the brakes on mutations? Just doesn't make any sense.
Skeptic_Heretic
not rated yet Aug 24, 2010
Now this seems mightily strange - if mutations are the food of evolution, why does the cell have strong mechanisms in place to prevent such mutations from occurring? Surely if evolutionary theory is correct then mutations should be occurring quite freely and at a very fast rate in order to generate the incredible information required to develop new limbs, muscle, shapes, connections and know-how to use those new items?

You don't even read the articles, do you?

as the research shows that OTUB1 inhibits the action of BRCA1, a DNA repair protein often mutated in these cancers.
OTUB1 is responsible for blocking the repair proteins, it is not a repair protein. It also provides some potential benefit in averting cancers.
Why would evolution be blocking it's own progress by putting the brakes on mutations? Just doesn't make any sense

This appears to be an evolution away from particular types of cancer as predicted by evolutionary theory. Not strange in the least.

More news stories

Bionic ankle 'emulates nature'

These days, Hugh Herr, an associate professor of media arts and sciences at MIT, gets about 100 emails daily from people across the world interested in his bionic limbs.

Cosmologists weigh cosmic filaments and voids

(Phys.org) —Cosmologists have established that much of the stuff of the universe is made of dark matter, a mysterious, invisible substance that can't be directly detected but which exerts a gravitational ...