How the cell repairs rips in DNA’s protective membrane

Yale researchers have tracked how cells’ nuclear membranes repair damage by looking at embryos of the worm C. elegans, which may help in future cancer research.
A diagram illustrating how embryonic cells repair damage to nuclear membranes, taken from microscopic photos by Yale researchers

All DNA is sealed within the cell’s nuclear membrane, which protects it from molecular marauders. But what happens when that protective envelope rips? Yale researchers tracked the repair process in developing embryos of the worm C. elegans.

In cells with membranes damaged by lasers or disease mutations, a family of proteins act like carpenters to reseal the breach. The Yale team found that the structural scaffold of the nuclear membrane helps the repair of the breach during the healing process, they report Jan. 31 in the journal Molecular Biology of the Cell

If the envelope rips, the embryos survive because the structural scaffold stabilizes the tear and keeps the DNA protected,” said Shirin Bahmanyar, assistant professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology.

The insights may one day help develop treatments for disorders caused by ruptures in nuclear envelopes, or alternately damage or kill cells with mutations that cause cancers or other diseases, the authors say.


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