Defending DNA From Damage
Our DNA is under constant attack from a bewildering array of environmental factors—from chemicals to various forms of radiation. To protect genetic information, all living things have evolved to find systems to repair DNA damage. In humans, these repair systems also provide a primary defence against DNA mutations that cause cancer.
Dr. Mark Glover, Canada Research Chair in Structural Molecular Biology, is examining how these systems function to protect our DNA. The critical role these systems play in protecting against cancer is underscored by the fact that inherited mutations in the genes that detect and repair DNA damage are linked to major hereditary human cancer syndromes. Perhaps the best known of these genes is the breast and ovarian cancer-associated protein, BRCA1.
Glover is using protein-imaging techniques to provide 3D detail of how DNA protective proteins such as BRCA1 assemble around regions of DNA damage. To date, his research has revealed how BRCA1 functions as a DNA defender, and has also shed light on how BRCA1 mutations can block DNA’s normal function, leading to cancer development.
Glover is providing insight into the natural systems that defend against DNA damage or the transition to a cancerous state. His research could lead to new ways to selectively target DNA repair systems in cancer cells, and to inhibit the growth of cancerous tumours.