Researchers at Vanderbilt University and Vanderbilt University Medical Center have determined that a previously uncharacterized protein called ETAA1 is a “replication stress response protein” with an essential role in maintaining the integrity of the genome.
The finding by David Cortez , Ph.D., Walter Chazin , Ph.D., and colleagues adds to the list of proteins known to be involved in DNA replication, the accurate copying of the genetic code each time a cell divides.
In particular, ETAA1 acts at stalled replication forks, where the double-helical DNA molecule splits apart and copies are made of each strand. The stalled replication fork has been compared to a paper jam in a copy machine. ETAA1 is one of a number of proteins that can undo the “jam.”
Quantity is important. Too much or too little of the protein is associated with DNA damage. Similarly, mutations in the ETAA1 gene are known to increase the risk for pancreatic cancer.