As the first Collaborative Research Centre (SFB) in which all three Rhine-Main Universities are significantly involved, the German Research Foundation (DFG) set up the new SFB 1361 "Regulation of DNA Repair and Genome Stability" on 1 January 2019. In addition to the three RMUs, the Institute of Molecular Biology gGmbH Mainz (IMB) and the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München are involved. The interdisciplinary network will bring together experts in structural biology, organic chemistry and biochemistry, cell and molecular biology, and genetic toxicology.
The Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz (JGU) will assume the chairmanship under Prof. Dr. med. Helle Ulrich, Professor in the Department of Biology, Scientific Director at the IMB. The molecular biologist and director of the Institute of Biochemistry II, Prof. Ivan Dikic, is involved from the Goethe University Frankfurt. As Principal Investigator, he leads the research project "Molecular mechanisms of replication stress response". The project investigates the mechanisms that ensure the smooth course of DNA replication at particularly critical points within DNA. The TU Darmstadt is involved in three subprojects headed by Prof. Markus Löbrich, Prof. Cristina Cardoso and Prof. Alexander Löwer.
On average, about 10,000 instances of damage occur every day in the genetic material of every cell in our body - and each of these instances can in principle become a mutation that leads to the development of cancer or premature aging. To prevent this and repair the vast amount of damage, cells have a series of repair mechanisms that protect our genome. To better understand these repair mechanisms, how they are regulated and work together to remedy damage, is the goal of the SFBs funded with around 10 million euros for the first four-year funding period.
DNA damage can be caused by environmental factors such as radiation and certain chemicals. However, they also come about through the normal metabolism of a cell, as a result of which reactive molecules are constantly being produced that damage our DNA. This damage can hinder the storage, copying and reading of genetic information. However, the cell has a variety of mechanisms for protecting and repairing its genome.
The interaction of these mechanisms is a major determinant of the fate of a cell: It regulates the balance between cell death and survival of the cell and between the correct repair of damage and the emergence of a mutation. Therefore, DNA repair can both promote and prevent carcinogenesis. It contributes to the cytotoxic effects of cancer therapies that kill cells and to the resistance of cancer cells to therapies. In a broader context, mechanisms for maintaining genome stability also influence evolution, since they increase the genetic diversity upon which natural selection is based. In addition, DNA repair not only serves to protect our genetic material but is also used to regulate the activity of genes.
The aim of the SFB is to investigate which sources of genome instability exist and what their biological effects are, via which signalling pathways DNA damage is detected and with which mechanisms cells protect themselves against them. Additionally, the SFB will investigate how the various DNA repair pathways are regulated and the mutual relationships between them are controlled. The latest approaches in microscopy, proteomics and genomics as well as current methods for the detection and quantification of DNA damage and DNA repair will be used.
The DFG's coordinated programme SFB funds long-term research collaboration lasting up to twelve years in which researchers work together as part of a cross-curricular research programme. The goal is an institutional focus and structural formation through the processing of innovative, demanding, complex and long-term conceived research projects through the coordination and concentration of persons and resources at the applicant universities.
Press contact for more information:
Dr. Ralf Dahm
Director of Scientific Management
Institute of Molecular Biology gGmbH (IMB)
Tel. +49 (0) 6131 / 39 – 21455
Fax +49 (0) 6131 39 21421