Magnar Bjørås' group Cellular Responses to DNA Damage
We investigate genome dynamics with particular emphasis on oxidative stress, DNA base lesion repair and maintenance of epigenetic DNA methylation (epigenome stability).
Cellular genomes are continuously challenged by physical, chemical and biological agents that introduce changes of the chemical structure of the DNA. Intracellular reactive metabolites such as reactive oxygen species and alkylating compounds are important inducers of such changes. Nevertheless, mutation frequencies are low because of very efficient pathways for DNA repair and DNA recombination, which remove DNA damage and conserve at least one functional copy of the genome.
Our main focus has been on repair of endogenous DNA base lesion repair mechanisms and genome stability. We have made major contributions to characterization of many new DNA repair enzymes from bacteria, yeast and mammalian. Our group has solved the atomic 3D-structure of many DNA-protein complexes revealing several new mechanisms of DNA base damage recognition and catalysis. We have also established research on the role of DNA base lesion repair in neurodegeneration, cognition and behavior, which is a new direction in the DNA repair field revealing novel functions beyond canonical DNA. Furthermore, we have established collaborations with clinicians to study the impact of DNA base lesion repair on diseases such as infections, heart failure, metabolic diseases and cancer.