Finding a Key to Unlock Chromosomal Memory

February 1, 2005

Fran Simon
Phone: 504-247-1425

How do cells maintain a "memory" so their structure is maintained from one generation to the next? Scientists at the Tulane University Health Sciences Center have uncovered an important part of a mechanism critical to cell replication. A chromosomal element present at the tips of chromosomes serves as "caps" to protect cells against chromosome loss and rearrangement that may lead to the development of cancer.

In a report in Current Biology published this week, biochemist Arthur Lustig and colleagues show that a protein called Ndj1p is essential to reset these caps to their original structure.

"We are excited about these findings, because they let us know about the deregulation of the 'cellular memory' that may prevent the development of tumors, cancer and birth defects," Lustig says. "We therefore can gain insight into possible mechanisms for reversing these defects."

The studies were supported by grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, with matching funds from the Tulane Cancer Center.

An abstract of the paper is available online.

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