The news comes hot on the heels of Professor McHugh's Cancer Research UK programme award. Grant success is tough, so this is a truly impressive achievement.
The MRC funded work focusses on the repair of DNA interstrand crosslinks (ICLs), which are formed when the two strands of the DNA double-helix become covalently linked together. ICLs are an extremely toxic form of DNA damage that prevent cellular fundamental processes including DNA replication and transcription. Defects in ICL repair result in cancer pre-disposition syndromes, such as Fanconi anemia, underlining the importance of ICL repair in human development and cancer avoidance.
Conversely, many important cancer chemotherapeutics work through ICL formation. Together, these facts emphasise the importance of understanding ICL repair for improving cancer prevention and treatment strategies.
Professor McHugh said of the project: "Here, the team aim to understand the nucleases and associated proteins that act to incise the DNA during ICL repair, with a focus on the XPF(FANCQ)-ERCC1 endonuclease, and the associated SLX4(FANCP) factor. We are using a combination of biochemical and structural approaches to reveal how these nuclease complexes are delivered to sites of DNA damage during DNA replication, and to characterise the reactions they undertake to initiate DNA repair at the replication fork."
Congratulations Professor McHugh and good luck with the research.