Monday, November 25, 2019
The Tardigrade's DNA Shield
Tardigrades are known for being one of the most resilient organisms known to man. They can survive drying out completely, being bombarded with various forms of radiation, doused in hydrogen peroxide, and even exposure to the vacuum of space. Early research led scientists to believe the Dsup ("damage suppressor") protein had something to do with this uncanny ability of tardigrades to survive, and recent research explains how exactly this protein functions.
The Dsup protein forms cotton-candy like clouds around nucleosomes. This cloud keeps DNA-damaging hydroxyl radicals away from the DNA. These radicals are most formed in all the aforementioned scenarios- radiation, drying, peroxide addition- and this Dsup matrix blocks them from the DNA almost completely.
This protein has also been added to human cells, and the cells inoculated with this protein show signs of radiation resistance. Additionally, it is known humans have similar proteins to Dsup called high mobility group nucleosome-binding proteins (HMGNs), but it is unknown whether these proteins have the capability of functioning like the Dsup proteins.
This research could lead to fascinating developments in our understanding of DNA and the genome yes, but most importantly it can be used to protect DNA. Imagine the applications of this discovery in regard to astronauts or others in professions where they are regularly exposed to high levels of radiation. Even the common person could benefit from knowing their DNA is more resistant to mutation from UV exposure. While it might not be currently possible to implement such things, the future applications are limitless.
Related Link (Paper on Dsup Protein): https://elifesciences.org/articles/47682#abstract