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Scientists discover how chromosomes keep their loose ends loose
Date:2/6/2013

We found that TRF2 uses a two-step mechanism to protect chromosome ends," said Keiji Okamoto, a postdoctoral fellow in Lazzerini Denchi's laboratory who was the lead author of the new study.

TRF2 is a complex protein with four functional domains (regions). Okamoto probed the specific functions of these four domains by creating artificial TRF2-like proteinsin which one or more functional domains were replaced with non-functional "dummy" domains. By studying how these artificial TRF2s functioned in cells, he could determine the separate functions of each individual domain.

Uncovering Distinct Roles

Two of these domains turned out to have distinct roles in suppressing the DNA damage response. "One domain, called TRFH, blocks localization of the DNA damage factor γH2AX, the initial step in the DNA response pathway," said Okamoto. It may do so by inducing a structural change in telomeres that hides it from the DNA damage machinery. A distinct region of TRF2, which Okamoto dubbed iDDR (inhibitor of the DNA damage response pathway), independently and actively suppresses the transduction of the DNA damage signal downstream of γH2AX.

Okamoto and colleagues found that the iDDR region works in part by recruiting an enzymatic activity associated with the tumor suppressor protein BRCA1. Defects in BRCA1 lead to DNA misrepairs, genomic instability and a sharp rise in cancer risk. (Certain BRCA1 mutations bring a greater than 50-percent lifetime risk of breast or ovarian cancer.) This new finding hints that BRCA1 defects may result in defects in telomere protection, too.

Lazzerini Denchi, Okamoto and their colleagues now plan to explore TRF2's functions and protein partners in further detail, in cell studies and in transgenic mice. "We want to address the BRCA1 connection more thoroughly, too, for example, to determine the importance of its association with telomeres in preventing tumors," Lazzerini Denchi said.

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Contact: Mika Ono
mikaono@scripps.edu
858-784-2052
Scripps Research Institute
Source:Eurekalert  

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