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Molecular Mayhem as Proteins Collide

With the help of funding from Worldwide Cancer Research, London-based scientist Dr Jesper Svejstrup and his team have discovered how the protein RECQL5 may protect cells from turning cancerous.

Scientists have known for some time that if a cell loses RECQL5, it is more likely to become cancerous. But they have struggled to find out why.

Now Dr Svejstrup at the Cancer Research UK London Research Institute has helped to show that RECQL5 acts to reduce the chance of two different proteins accidentally colliding as they work along strands of DNA. His exciting new findings were recently published in Cell, one of the leading journals in the field.

Dr Svejstrup’s latest study shows that RECQL5 helps to control the movement of an important protein called RNA polymerase II. This protein uses the instructions contained in our DNA to make proteins. As RNA polymerase II travels along the DNA ‘reading’ the instructions, RECQL5 helps to moderate RNA polymerase II speed and ensure that it goes at a stable pace.

The researchers think that this reduces the number of times that RNA polymerase II collides with an oncoming protein, DNA polymerase, on particularly long stretches of DNA instructions (long genes). If the two proteins collide, the resulting DNA damage can sometimes be so bad the DNA strands actually break. DNA breakage is one of the mechanisms which can lead to cells becoming cancerous.

By reducing the number of collisions and preventing DNA damage, RECQL5 seems to help protect the cell from potentially cancer-causing events.

In helping us to understand more about the role of RECQL5, Dr Svejstrup and his team have opened up new potential ways to target cancers linked to faulty RECQL5-related proteins.

The reference for the paper referred to in this study is: Saponaro, M et al. RECQL5 controls transcript elongation and suppresses genome instability associated with transcription (2014) Cell.

The original paper can be found here.