The laboratory of Dr. Petr Cejka (IRB, Università della Svizzera italiana) studies how cells repair damaged or broken DNA. DNA can break as a result of exposure to radiation, chemicals or errors during natural cellular processes such as DNA replication. A failure to repair broken DNA may result in cell death, while incorrect repair may give rise to mutations and cancer. To repair DNA breaks without introducing mutations, cell employ a process termed homologous recombination. The first step in the recombination pathway involves a processing of the broken DNA end to make it suitable for repair.
In a new paper (The motor activity of DNA2 functions as an ssDNA translocase to promote DNA end resection) published in Genes and Development, Dr. Cejka and colleagues describe the function of one of the proteins that is involved in the initial DNA end processing. This factor, termed Dna2, can both degrade DNA as well as separate the two strands of the DNA helix.
"We discovered that Dna2 is a fascinating molecular machine, which combines several activities to optimally prepare DNA for the recombination pathway", Cejka describes his work, and adds, "A number of anti cancer regimens including radiotherapy and diverse chemotherapeutic drugs kill cancer cells by inducing DNA breaks. Detailed understanding of the DNA repair process may give rise to novel or improve existing therapeutic strategies in the future."
For further information: www.irb.usi.ch/new-paper-cejka-lab