The role of the DOG-1 helicase in repair of DNA interstrand cross-links in the model organism Caenorhabditis elegans

DNA damage repair pathways prevent cancer by recognizing and repairing DNA damage. If DNA damage is not constantly and consistently repaired in this way, it can lead to mutations in the DNA, which accumulate over time. Without normal DNA repair pathways in action, cancer will eventually develop. Jillian Youds’ research focuses on the DNA repair pathway involved in the hereditary cancer susceptibility syndrome Fanconi anemia. Patients with Fanconi anemia have unstable chromosomes and commonly develop cancer at a young age. It is thought that these patients are unable to repair cross-links in their DNA, which can prevent essential cell processes from occurring. As these DNA repair pathways are common to many organisms, Youds is using the nematode C. elegans to conduct her studies. Using molecular biology, genetic and biochemistry techniques, Youds will study how DNA cross-links are repaired by the cell under normal circumstances. This research is relevant to patients with Fanconi anemia, and it will contribute to the development of the best possible chemotherapeutics to optimize cancer treatments. Since the loss of functional repair pathways is a contributing cause of cancer and also a means to target cancer cells for elimination during treatment, an understanding of how the DNA cross-link repair pathway works will bring us closer to the ultimate goals of prevention and successful treatment of cancer.