Breast cancer susceptibility: Advanced study possible with isolation of full-length BRCA2 protein

Image: By Abby Tabor | Science Writer at NASA's Ames Research Center

Breast cancer susceptibility has been linked to the gene BRCA2: about half of highly hereditary cases show mutations in this gene. Much more advanced research on the connection will now be possible, thanks to a UC Davis lab that has successfully isolated the full-length protein product of the gene from human cells.

When the BRCA2 gene is functioning correctly, it is thought to participate in DNA repair. However, studying its role has faced obstacles without sufficient quantities of functional protein to work with. The achievement of the lab led by Prof. Stephen Kowalczykowski should find numerous applications in research and commercially, such as production of antibodies for testing kits, drug screening and understanding how specific mutations affect the BRCA2 protein’s ability to function.

Previous attempts at expressing the gene in bacteria, yeast and insect cells encountered problems like low yields, and protein insolubility and degradation. The new method overcomes these problems and ensures that the protein has undergone the right post-translational modifications and folding. 

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