The Frederick News-Post
November 24, 2017
An article in Nature, one of the world’s top academic publications, is considered a career-building accomplishment for any researcher. Patrick Lombardi achieved that goal faster than many of his peers when his work was published in the journal earlier this month.
Lombardi — now an assistant professor of chemistry at Mount St. Mary’s University — conducted his research as a postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins University, studying ubiquitin in the lab of prominent researcher Cynthia Wolberger.
A signaling protein, ubiquitin plays an important role in transmitting messages inside the cell. They also play a prominent part in the Nature article, which examined their role in repairing a common type of DNA defect known as alkylation damage.
“What we found is that to mark the site of this damage, there’s a chain of proteins — ubiquitins — that’s built and tethered in proximity to it,” said Lombardi, who worked on the paper alongside researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri. “So, this is kind of the flare on the side of the road that says, ‘We need help. Something’s gone wrong.’”
Alkylation damage, specifically, can cause lesions on strands of DNA, preventing the bases from pairing properly. But what’s more important to understand, Lombardi said, is that any type of DNA damage can impede its ability to convey instructions that keep the cell functioning properly. That’s why it’s so important for the damage to be repaired quickly, ensuring that the mutations aren’t replicated.