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Discovery links rare, childhood neurodegenerative diseases to common problem in DNA repair
Date:5/9/2014

(MEMPHIS, Tenn. May 9, 2014) St. Jude Children's Research Hospital scientists studying two rare, inherited childhood neurodegenerative disorders have identified a new, possibly common source of DNA damage that may play a role in other neurodegenerative diseases, cancer and aging. The findings appear in the current issue of the scientific journal Nature Neuroscience.

Researchers showed for the first time that an enzyme required for normal DNA functioning causes DNA damage in the developing brain. DNA is the molecule found in nearly every cell that carries the instructions needed to assemble and sustain life.

The enzyme is topoisomerase 1 (Top1). Normally, Top1 works by temporarily attaching to and forming a short-lived molecule called a Top1 cleavage complex (Top1cc). Top1ccs cause reversible breaks in one strand of the double-stranded DNA molecule. That prompts DNA to partially unwind, allowing cells to access the DNA molecule in preparation for cell division or to begin production of the proteins that do the work of cells.

Different factors, including the free radicals that are a byproduct of oxygen metabolism, result in Top1ccs becoming trapped on DNA and accumulating in cells. This study, however, is the first to link the buildup to disease. The results also broaden scientific understanding of the mechanisms that maintain brain health.

Investigators made the connection between DNA damage and accumulation of Top1cc while studying DNA repair problems in the rare neurodegenerative disorders ataxia telangiectasia (A-T) and spinocerebellar ataxia with axonal neuropathy 1(SCAN1). The diseases both involve progressive difficulty with walking and other movement. This study showed that A-T and SCAN1 also share the buildup of Top1ccs as a common mechanism of DNA damage. A-T is associated with a range of other health problems, including an increased risk of leukemia, lymphoma and other cancers.

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Contact: Carrie Strehlau
carrie.strehlau@stjude.org
901-595-2295
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
Source:Eurekalert

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