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Sunday, June 13, 2021

ARI scientists identify proteins that help hydra to repair damaged DNA

Accumulation of damaged DNA is one of the contributing factors for which any organism shows signs of aging.

Written by Anjali Marar | Pune |
Updated: June 7, 2021 8:01:43 am
ARI scientists identify proteins that help hydra to repair damaged DNAHydra is one of the oldest known multi-cellular living organisms. (Image via Agharkar Research Institute)

Researchers at Agharkar Research Institute (ARI) have identified a protein-based pathway, used by hydra – a primitive organism – which could potentially hold some clues in understanding evolution of organisms and pointing towards specific genes that help the organisms survive very long.

DNA, which is the building block of any organism that determines its growth, functionality and life, faces constant threat of getting damaged — both from internal and external agents — like chemicals, pollutants, ultraviolet rays present in sunlight and other sources.

Damage in DNA can hamper the overall well-being and functioning of cells and thus, the organism itself.

But DNA in all organisms — from bacteria to humans – has a unique ability to perform its own repair. There are mechanisms or pathways through which the damaged portions of DNA are constantly repaired.

“If this repair does not happen, then the cells will begin to slowly die, or may lead to carcinogenesis — that is, inducing cancers in the body. Besides, there is a possibility that such distorted DNA in the cells is passed on to subsequent generations,” said Surendra Ghaskadbi, senior biologist and lead author of the research, published in Journal of Biosciences.

Ghaskadbi’s team at ARI has been studying DNA damage and repair in hydra, which is considered as one of the oldest living multi-cellular organisms found in freshwater bodies. The laboratory, one-of-its-kind in the world, carries out research in this area of specialisation for years now.

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Accumulation of damaged DNA is one of the contributing factors for which any organism shows signs of aging. But in the case of hydra, which shows no signs of aging, the ARI researchers reported the inherent presence of a robust mechanism of DNA repair.

Through an experimental approach hydra DNA repair proteins were supplied to those human cells deficient in self-repairing their damaged DNA. The results, the scientists shared, have shown that a protein named hydra XPA was able to help such human cells perform DNA repairs.

“Hydra XPA contains a conserved nuclear localisation signal, which marks proteins to be sent to the nucleus. The predicted structure of a part of the hydra XPA protein has very high similarity with the human XPA,” the study found.

On the new findings, Dr Satyajit Rath, eminent scientist associated with the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Pune, said, “It is interesting that among the DNA repair pathways in hydra, at least some components have remained conserved all through evolution. It will be even more interesting to find out whether the diverged components play any crucial role in understanding human longevity along with evolution of DNA repair mechanisms.”

The study further noted that hydra XPA was found to be sharing more similarities with fish, frog and chick than invertebrates. Thereby, it confirms that the DNA-repair mechanisms in both hydra and humans have been conserved over millions of years of evolution.

More studies of DNA repairs in hydra could offer clues in understanding the aging in humans.

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