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Unusual mechanism keeps repair protein accurate

Columbus , Ohio -- Cancer researchers have discovered that a recently identified protein critical for repairing damaged genes uses an unusual mechanism to keep its repairs accurate.

The protein, called DNA polymerase lambda, is one of a group of proteins known as DNA polymerases that are vital for accurately making and repairing DNA.

But while other DNA-repair proteins insure their accuracy with the help of so-called proof-reading regions or accessory molecules, this protein maintains its accuracy using an otherwise ordinary-looking portion of its molecular structure.

The study was led by Zucai Suo, assistant professor of biochemistry and a researcher with the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute. The research, published in the July 14 issue of The Journal of Biological Chemistry, provides new insights into how cells repair damaged DNA.

"DNA is constantly attacked and damaged by a variety of agents," Suo says. "The body must properly repair that damage, or it can lead to cell death or to cancer, birth defects and other diseases.

"There are six families of DNA polymerases," Suo says, "and this is the first polymerase to use this mechanism to maintain its accuracy when making new DNA. It is both surprising and unprecedented."

The repair protein itself was first discovered by scientists studying DNA sequence data produced by the Human Genome Project. Suo and his colleagues then became interested in learning how the repair protein worked.

The protein has four distinct regions, or domains. Three of the regions had molecular structures that strongly suggest the task they performed.

For example, regions three and four closely resemble a well-known repair protein called DNA polymerase beta. In fact, it was this similarity that tipped off scientists that the new protein was probably involved in DNA r
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Contact: Darrell E. Ward
Darrell.Ward@osumc.edu
614-293-3737
Ohio State University
25-Jul-2006


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