Friday, 8 February 2019

Bacteria help discover human cancer-causing proteins


A team led by researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Texas at Austin has applied an unconventional approach that used bacteria to discover human proteins that can lead to DNA damage and promote cancer. Reported in the journal Cell, the study also proposes biological mechanisms by which these proteins can cause damage to DNA, opening possibilities for future cancer treatments.

Mutations that cause cancer can be the result of DNA damage. External factors such as tobacco smoke and sunlight can damage DNA, but most DNA damage seems to result from events that occur within cells and is mediated by cellular components, including proteins. Despite the importance of these events, they have not been studied extensively.

To uncover these DNA "damage-up" proteins, the researchers took an unconventional approach. They searched for proteins that promote DNA damage in human cells by looking at proteins that, when overproduced, would cause DNA damage in the bacterium E. coli.

The researchers genetically modified bacteria so they would fluoresce red when DNA was damaged. Then, they overexpressed each of the 4,000 genes present in E coli individually and determined which ones made bacteria glow red.


See:

Jun Xia, Li-Ya Chiu, Ralf B. Nehring, et al. Bacteria-to-Human Protein Networks Reveal Origins of Endogenous DNA Damage. Cell, 2019; 176 (1-2): 127 DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2018.12.008

Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle, Pharmaceutical Microbiology

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