Areas of Research
- DNA Repair Research
- DNA Polymerases Research
- Genome Stability Research
- Genetic Predisposition to Cancers Research
Welcome to the Wood Laboratory at MD Anderson Cancer Center. We are a research lab in The Department of Epigenetics and Molecular Carcinogenesis at Science Park, a basic research campus of MD Anderson located near Austin. Research in our group explores the mechanisms of genome stability and the consequences for cancer, including the biochemical mechanism of repair of cross-links between DNA strands and the DNA polymerases that help cells tolerate DNA damage. Mammalian cells devote several hundred genes to DNA repair. Our research employs a broad range of investigations, ranging from fundamental biochemical studies and proteomics through cellular biology, to genetically engineered mouse models having impaired pathways of repair and mutagenesis.
The Wood laboratory, located near Austin at Science Park, is particuarly interested in the role of DNA polymerases in DNA damage repair. In normal and cancer cells, DNA is subjected to damage from many sources, including inescapable chemical reactions with oxygen and water. Other sources of DNA damage include ionizing radiation, ultraviolet radiation from the sun, and chemicals from the environment. If DNA is not repaired, genomes will gradually decay, lose normal function, and accumulate mutations (changes in DNA sequence). Such mutations are a central driving force in cancer.
Fortunately, our cells have numerous strategies for repair of DNA damage, and devote many genes and proteins to the machinery of DNA repair. It is important to understand the mechanisms of DNA repair in detail, because this process is a front-line defense against the mutations that cause cancer. Moreover, the aim of many cancer therapies is to disable tumor DNA by using radiation and drugs. It is crucial to understand exactly how cancer cells respond to DNA damage, and how to increase the effectiveness of DNA-damaging treatments.
In the image to the right, a double fluorescent Cre reporter system was used to monitor Cre recombinase activity. In this system, the transgene mT/mG expresses red fluorescence in cell membranes before Cre-mediated recombination and green fluorescence after Cre-mediated recombination. We can use this system in conditional knock-out strains to monitor cell-specific expression of Cre activity. The upper panel is a salivary gland; the lower panel is from the skin.