Gurdon Institute, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom (England)
£1,185,492 for 6 years
Period of Award
1st January 2010 - 31st December 2015
How do our cells copy our DNA?
Healthy cells grow and divide in a highly organised manner, for example to replace dead skin cells or to heal a wound. Cancer occurs when something goes wrong and the cells become able to grow and divide in an uncontrolled manner, forming a tumour.
The division of cells, to produce two new cells, involves a series of steps known as the cell cycle. Before a cell divides, it firstly has to copy its entire DNA (the genetic material) and then give one complete copy to each of the new cells. Errors in the copying of the DNA are one of the causes of cancer. To help reduce errors the cells only allow DNA to be copied at a particular time in the cell cycle. Many of the molecules involved in this copying process have been identified but the way in which they are regulated and their exact role is still unclear.
The copying process starts when a group of molecules come together, known as the Pre-Initiation Complex and this is the focus of Dr Zegerman’s research. In order to study this complex Dr Zegerman is using both human cells and yeast. Yeast are very similar to human cells, but they are less complicated and easier to work with, and they provide an opportunity to understand biological problems before they can be tested directly in humans. Dr Zegerman is investigating how the Pre-Initiation Complex assembles and disassembles at defined time points during the cell cycle. Many molecules in the Pre-Initiation Complex become damaged or altered in cancer but how this contributes to the development of cancer is yet unknown, which is also something Dr Zegerman aims to find out. In addition, he believes that several key components of the Pre-Initiation Complex have not yet been found in human cells and it is his aim to find these molecules and analyse their possible role in the onset of cancer.