Researchers of the Hubrecht Institute (KNAW) in Utrecht, The Netherlands, and the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, United Kingdom, have discovered a new way in which the human body repairs DNA damage caused by a degradation product of alcohol. That knowledge underlines the link between alcohol consumption and cancer. The research groups of Puck Knipscheer and Ketan J. Patel worked together on this study and published the results in the scientific journal Nature.
New line of defense
Scientists from the groups of Puck Knipscheer (Hubrecht Institute) and Ketan J. Patel (MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology) studied the second line of defense against alcohol-induced ICLs: mechanisms that remove the damage from the DNA. The investigators studied these mechanisms using protein extracts made from the eggs of the clawed frog (Xenopus laevis), an animal model commonly used in biology research. By using these extracts to repair an ICL formed by acetaldehyde, they discovered the existence of two mechanisms that repair ICL damage: the previously known Fanconi anemia (FA) pathway and a novel, faster route. These two mechanisms differ from each other: in the FA pathway the DNA is cut to remove the ICL, whereas the enzymes in the newly discovered route cut the crosslink itself.
With this research, the scientists provide a mechanistic sneak peek in the process of DNA damage repair. ‘We now know that there are multiple ways in which the body can repair ICLs in the DNA’, says co-lead author Puck Knipscheer. She thinks that this type of research may lead to a better understanding of treatment for alcohol-related types of cancer. ‘But before we can do that, we first have to know exactly how this novel mechanism for ICL repair works.’
Reference: Hodskinson et al. (2020). Alcohol-derived DNA crosslinks are repaired by two distinct mechanisms. Nature. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-2059-5.
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