Protein that regulates DNA may yield new clues to cancer


    LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Researchers at the University of Louisville’s James Graham Brown Cancer Center have found that a protein called Mms21 plays an important role in regulating DNA repair, which prevents a cell from becoming cancerous.

    Understanding how Mms21 and other proteins involved in DNA repair keep a cell from becoming cancerous is the topic of an article appearing this week in the journal Molecular Cell.

    “DNA damage is a key initiator of cancer, and studies leading to understanding of this process are ongoing in many laboratories and are central to our understanding of how cancer begins,” said Hong Ye, senior investigator on this $1.27 million, five-year, National Institutes of Health-funded study.

    “Mms21 is an important protein in the cell’s response to DNA damage, and understanding the structure of this protein and how it fits into DNA repair is a first step toward understanding the process and how it may be disrupted in cancer. And, such studies may lay the foundation for designing new cancer treatments in the future.”

    Ye and her research team have solved the structure of Mms21 using an innovative process that combines x-ray crystallography with genetic and biochemical methods.

    UofL researchers Xinyuan Duan and Gurdish Rangi and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center researchers Xiaolan Zhao and Prabha Sarangi collaborated on the study.

    The mission of the James Graham Brown Cancer Center is to generate new knowledge relating to the nature of cancer, and to create new and more effective approaches to prevention, diagnosis and therapy, while delivering medical advances with compassion and respect to cancer patients throughout the region.