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Some cells don't know when to stop
Date:11/19/2012

Certain mutated cells keep trying to replicate their DNA with disastrous results even after medications rob them of the raw materials to do so, according to new research from USC.

New imaging techniques allowed scientists to see for the first time that while chemotherapy drugs shut down the DNA replication process of most cancer cells, so-called "checkpoint mutants" just keep chugging along, unwinding the DNA and creating damaged DNA strands that can result in the kind of abnormalities seen in cancer cells.

"Older methods suggested that these checkpoint mutants stopped replicating and that the replication machinery simply fell apart to cause DNA damage," said Susan Forsburg, professor of molecular biology at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. "Our new technique suggests that replication processes continue and actively contribute to the damage."

Forsburg is the corresponding author on a paper about the discovery that was published online in Molecular & Cellular Biology in October. She collaborated with lead author Sarah Sabatinos, a postdoctoral research associate at USC, and Marc Green, a research technician.

The team used a common chemotherapy drug to put stress on fission yeast cells while they were going through the DNA replication process. The drug starves cells for nucleotides, which are the molecules that cells use to build DNA strands.

Previous studies showed that normal cells recognize the loss of nucleotides and stop trying to replicate their DNA similar to how a driver who runs low on gas stops before he runs the engine dry.

What the researchers found is that the checkpoint mutants ignore this signal. Using the metaphor above, the driver of the car can't take his foot off of the accelerator and keeps going until his engine sputters to a stop. While this won't necessarily damage a car engine, it's catastrophic for DNA.

These mutant cells keep trying to replica
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Contact: Robert Perkins
perkinsr@usc.edu
213-740-9226
University of Southern California
Source:Eurekalert

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