Cells continuously replicate to repair and replace damaged tissue, and each division requires a reprinting of the cell’s genetic blueprints. As the DNA duplicates, errors inevitably occur, resulting in damage that, if left unrepaired, can lead to cellular death.

At the first hint of DNA damage, a protein known as an ATR kinase activates the cell’s built-in repair system. Scientists have now imaged this protein at unprecedented resolution, and are beginning to understand its response to DNA damage.

The researchers published the structural information in Science (“3.9 Å structure of the yeast Mec1-Ddc2 complex, a homolog of human ATR-ATRIP”).

“The ATR protein is the apical kinase to cope with the DNA damages and replication stress,” said Gang Cai, a professor of life sciences at the University of Science & Technology of China in Hefei, China, and the lead author on the paper. “It has long been a central question to determine

[the] activation mechanism of ATR kinase–how it responds to DNA damage and how it is activated.”

Image Credit:  Guoyan Wang and Yanbing Ma

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