Research In Brief: New Manuscript Examines Double-Strand Breaks in Fruit Fly Model

JANUARY 6, 2014 – A new article by a professor and three students in the Department of Human Science at the School of Nursing & Health Studies examines double-strand breaks and repair in DNA using a fruit fly model.

Jan LaRocque, PhD, assistant professor of human science, served as lead author of “Double-strand Break Repair Assays Determine Pathway Choice and Structure of Gene Conversion Events in Drosophila melanogaster,” which appeared in G3: Genes, Genomics, and Genetics.

Undergraduates Joseph Brooks (NHS’15), Anthony Do (NHS’15), and Margot Le Neveu (NHS’14) co-authored the peer-reviewed manuscript.  The journal is published by the Genetics Society of America.

Toxic DNA Damage

“Double-strand breaks (DSBs) are a particularly toxic type of DNA damage as unrepaired DSBs contribute to genome instability,” the authors say.  “There are several pathways in which DSBs are repaired, called homologous recombination, non-homologous end joining, and single-strand annealing.”

The authors describe a new DSB repair assay that “detects each of these three repair pathways and demonstrates that the preferred DSB repair pathway in Drosophila melanogaster (fruit fly) is homologous recombination.”

In addition, they showcase a second assay that offers scientists the opportunity to analyze DSB repair in high resolution, allowing them to gain improved insight on the mechanisms driving that process.

Drosophila as a Model System

“The Drosophila model organism has conserved DNA repair mechanisms,” says LaRocque.  “As such, these novel reporter assays can be used in future experiments that may be applicable to how DSBs are repaired in humans.”

Possible areas for future investigation include understanding the basic biological mechanisms of how DSB repair is regulated, the effects of aging on DSB repair, how recombination between diverged sequences is suppressed, how DSBs in different tissues are repaired, and how the DSBs in different areas of the genome are repaired, she says.

By Bill Cessato