Breakdowns in DNA copying process lead to cancer, other diseases

April 23, 2013

Right: Cells have DNA copying machines that pause frequently and break down, resulting in mutations and cell death. These extreme effects on genome stability initially cause the cells to grow extremely long. Left: Cells with no defects in the DNA copying process. (DNA can be seen as the intensely fluorescent signals inside the cells). (Credit: University of York)

The cell protein machines that copy DNA in a model organism pause frequently during this copying process, creating the potential for dangerous mutations to develop that can contribute to cancer and other diseases., University of York researchers have discovered.

The project focused on a bacterium called Escherichia coli, a powerful model for studying the DNA copying process.

“We have analyzed what causes most of these breakdowns and how, under normal circumstances, cells repair these broken copying machines, said  Peter McGlynn, an Anniversary Professor in the University’s Department of Biology, who led the research team.

“Just as importantly, our work reveals that efficient repair of these breakdowns is very important to avoid corruption of the genetic code.”

The research was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).