All organisms have genomes. Each genome contains all of the critical biological information about that organism. A variety of agents that kill cells can damage genomes. Normal biological processes such as DNA replication can also damage the genome. Such damage causes genome instability—a major contributor to the development of cancer.
Evolution generated a variety of DNA repair pathways in a wide range of organisms, from bacteria to humans. These correct or remove DNA damage. They safeguard the integrity of the genome. Our group focuses on one such repair pathway known as DNA mismatch repair (MMR). MMR corrects improperly paired or unpaired DNA bases. It also is a critical component of the DNA damage response. The loss of MMR is the leading cause of a genetic predisposition to colorectal cancer. We study how repair and signaling pathways blunt cancer risk. MMR is involved in a variety of cellular responses to counter DNA damage. MMR directly repairs base mismatches and establishes tolerance to certain DNA damaging drugs. MMR also triggers pathways for programmed cell death. Our research contributes to knowledge about cancer development, and our studies of fundamental cellular DNA repair processes may aid in the eventual development of new treatments.