Key protein aids in DNA repair

Scientists have shown in multiple contexts that DNA damage over our lifetimes is a key mechanism behind the development of cancer and other age-related diseases. Not everyone gets these diseases, because the body has multiple mechanisms for repairing the damage caused to DNA by aging, the environment and other human behaviors - but the mechanisms behind certain kinds of DNA repair have not been well-understood.

In a paper published today in the journal Nature, researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center have shown that a particular - called Ku - is particularly adept at healing damaged strands of DNA.

According to Dale Ramsden, PhD, associate professor in the department of biochemistry and and a member of the curriculum in genetics and molecular biology, Ku is a very exciting protein because it employs a unique mechanism to repair a particularly drastic form of .

"Damage to DNA in the form of a broken chromosome, or double strand break, can be very difficult to repair - it is not a clean break and areas along the strand may be damaged at the level of the fundamental building blocks of DNA - called nucleotides," he notes.

Broken can be compared to a break in a strand of yarn made up of several different threads or plies. Unless scissors are used to cut the yarn, the strand frays and may break or be damaged at several different places up and down the length of the yarn. These rough ends get "dirty" - making them harder to repair.

"It has been assumed in the past that double strand breaks are the most difficult class of DNA damage to repair and it is often presumed that they simply can not be repaired accurately," says Ramsden.

The team found that the protein Ku, which has long been appreciated for its ability to find chromosome breaks along a strand of DNA, actually removes the "dirt" at broken chromosome ends, allowing for much more accurate repair than believed possible.

"This protein actually heals at the nucleotide level as well as the level of the chromosome," says Ramsden, comparing its action to washing and disinfecting a cut before trying to sew it up to promote healing.

The team is hopeful that the discovery of this mechanism for may lead to a target for treatment of age-related diseases caused by chromosome damage in the future.


Explore further

Researcher defines proteins that distinguish chromosome ends from DNA double-strand breaks

Provided by University of North Carolina
Citation: Key protein aids in DNA repair (2010, April 11) retrieved 19 June 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2010-04-key-protein-aids-dna.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
0 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Apr 15, 2010
What is protein Ku and where do you find it?????

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more