Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)


Biomedical Sciences

Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Yue Zou

Committee Members

Robert Schoborg, Antonio Rusinol, Krishna Signh, Phillip Musich


Endogenous and exogenous agents that can damage DNA are a constant threat to genome stability in all living cells. In response, cells have evolved an array of mechanisms to repair DNA damage or to eliminate the cells damaged beyond repair. One of these mechanisms is nucleotide excision repair (NER) which is the major repair pathway responsible for removing a wide variety of bulky DNA lesions. Deficiency, or mutation, in one or several of the NER repair proteins is responsible for many diseases, including cancer. Prokaryotic NER involves only three proteins to recognize and incise a damaged site, while eukaryotic NER requires more than 25 proteins to efficiently recognize and incise a damaged site. XPC-RAD23B (XPC) is the damage recognition factor in eukaryotic global genome NER. The association rate of XPC to damaged DNA has been extensively studied; however, our data suggests that the dissociation of the XPC-DNA complex is the rate-limiting step in NER. The factor that verifies DNA-damage downstream of XPC is XPA. XPA also has been implicated in binding of ds-ssDNA junctions and has been found to bind at or near double-strand break sites in the premature aging syndrome Hutchinson-Gilford progeria (HGPS). This role for XPA is outside of its known function in NER and suggests that XPA may bind at collapsed replication forks in HGPS that are unprotected due to a lack of binding by replication proteins. Along with XPC and XPA, ataxia telangiectasia and Rad3-related (ATR) is activated in response to DNA damage and initiates the cell cycle checkpoint pathway to rescue cells from genomic instability. We found that ATR functions outside of its known role in the checkpoint signaling cascade. Our data demonstrate that ATR can rescue cells from apoptosis by inhibiting cytochrome c release at the mitochondria though direct interaction with the outer mitochondrial membrane and the proapoptotic protein tBid. The role of ATR in apoptosis is regulated by Pin1, which can change the structure of ATR at the backbone level. All of the results presented here suggest novel roles for DNA repair proteins in the maintenance of genome stability.

Document Type

Dissertation - unrestricted


Copyright by the authors.