Genetic 911: Cells’ emergency systems revealed

Toxic chemicals wreak havoc on cells, damaging DNA and other critical molecules. A new study from researchers at MIT and the University at Albany reveals how a molecular emergency-response system shifts the cell into damage-control mode and helps it survive such attacks by rapidly producing proteins that counteract the harm.

Peter Dedon, a professor of biological engineering at MIT, and colleagues had previously shown that cells treated with poisons such as arsenic alter their chemical modification of molecules known as transfer RNA (tRNA), which deliver protein building blocks within a cell. In their new paper, appearing in the July 3 issue of Nature Communications, the research team delved into how these modifications help cells survive.

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