Protein Clue Could Help Fight Cancer

In a finding that could have important implications for cancer research, scientists report that the protein ATF2 -- already recognized for its role in gene regulation -- also helps initiate cellular DNA repair. DNA repair prevents the formation of genetic mutations, including those that cause cancer, and this study is the first to identify ATF2 as playing a role in that process. "This is the first time we've seen a protein which has been implicated in gene regulation possess an independent function -- in DNA repair -- while both functions are uncoupled from one another," Ze'ev Ronai, director of the signal transduction program at the Burnham Institute, in La Jolla, Calif., said in prepared statement. Reporting in the May 27 issue of Molecular Cell, the researchers found that ATF2 is activated by a protein kinase called ATM, which in turn stimulates DNA repair. This regulation of ATF2 by ATM is central to a cell's ability to initiate DNA repair, they explained.

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