Researchers find protein that keeps DNA from collapsing

August 17, 2016

As the cells in our bodies divide to make new ones, DNA is split apart and copied. In a paper published in Cell Death and Disease, Dr. David Picketts and his team found that a protein called ATRX can keep this replicating DNA from collapsing when it hits a temporary roadblock. This allows replication to restart, and cell division to finish successfully. In developing tissues that rapidly divide like the muscles, brain and reproductive system, such protection by ATRX is critical for normal development. These findings are important because children with mutations of the ATRX gene have a severe intellectual disability disorder characterized by a small head, weak muscles and problems with the development of the reproductive system. A thorough grasp of the function of ATRX will lead to a better understanding of this genetic condition and provide avenues for possible therapies.

Authors: M.S. Huh, D. Ivanochko, L.E. Hashem, M. Curtin, M. Delorme, E. Goodall, K. Yan, D.J. Picketts

Funding: Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Cancer Research Society, University of Ottawa, The Ottawa Hospital Foundation

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