SLU researchers first to decipher new protein structure

October 05, 2003

ST. LOUIS -- Saint Louis University researchers have deciphered the unique three-dimensional structure of a recombination protein involved in cell replication--a discovery that increases scientists' understanding of how cells pass on genetic information and could ultimately contribute to the prevention and cure of genetic diseases.

The findings were published today in the journal Structure (Cell Press).

The research was performed at the laboratory of Sergey Korolev, Ph.D., assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology. Researchers included Nodar Makharashvili and Olga Koroleva from the department of biochemistry and molecular biology; and Duane Grandgenett, Ph.D., and Sibes Bera from the Institute of Molecular Virology at Saint Louis University.

"What we did is decipher the molecular structure of the protein, which is part of the machinery that allows the successful copying of genetic information," Korolev said. "Every protein is essentially a three-dimensional machine. To understand how the machine functions, you need to be able to see the structure."

The protein, called recombination protein O (RecO), was isolated from the bacterium Deinococcus radiodurans (D. radiodurans). The bacterium is of particular interest to many researchers since it is able to repair DNA damage after being exposed to extremely high levels of radiation. Proteins with similar functions exist in all organisms, including humans.

Korolev said structures such as the one his team identified are useful to researchers who seek greater understanding of how these proteins function - researchers who may include not only basic scientists, but pharmaceutical researchers interested in developing more effective drugs. The failure to accurately replicate the genomic DNA in the presence of DNA damage is believed to be a primary cause of mutagenesis and cancer predisposition, he said.
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Saint Louis University

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