The main focus of our research is the study of DNA repair processes in the context of chromatin – the highly compacted form of our DNA in the cell nucleus. Since higher order chromatin structure presents a barrier to the recognition and repair of DNA lesions, cells must be equipped with mechanisms to surpass this natural obstacle. Two basic mechanisms have been shown to be involved in chromatin structure modulations that are essential for all nuclear processes that utilize DNA:
(1) post-translational modification of histone proteins and
(2) the action of protein complexes that employ the energy of ATP hydrolysis to alter chromatin structure.
We are studying the role of both of these mechanisms in DNA repair processes. Our current emphasis lies on the repair of DNA double-strand breaks, highly toxic lesions that – if unrepaired or repaired incorrectly – can lead to chromosomal instability, a hallmark of many cancers.