Scientists decipher "fail-safe" system that limits gene copying in cells

ory mechanisms and possibly more replication factors are involved. Li's team is actively looking for them.

"The evolution of this overlapping system of protection indicates just how crucial it is to an organism's survival to bequeath an exact complement of every gene to each generation of cells," Li says. "Failure to pass on genetic information stably can lead to cell death, or possibly to an accumulation of genetic lesions that ultimately may give rise to cancer."

If some genes are copied more than once before the cell divides, daughter cells may inherit faulty instructions to make too much of some proteins, disrupting the balance of activities needed to control cell proliferation. Excess duplication can also disrupt the proper segregation of genetic information when the cell next divides, Li said, a potential danger that the new research will allow scientists to study.

"For the first time, we have a system to clarify just what happens when replication is not controlled," he said. "The research offers a way to move beyond the theory to actual experimental analysis of how re-replication can disrupt the integrity of genetic inheritance and how the cell responds to this disruption. Eventually, we may learn how to enhance cells' abilities to protect themselves from these disruptions."

First author on the Nature paper is Van Q. Nguyen, UCSF graduate student in biochemistry and biophysics. Co-author and collaborator on the research is Carl Co, also a graduate student in the same department.


Contact: Wallace Ravven
University of California - San Francisco

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