University of Vermont

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Vermont Medicine Magazine

Wallace Article is Editor’s Choice in Dec. 2013 “Environmental and Molecular Mutagenesis”

Susan Wallace, Ph.D., Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics
Susan Wallace, Ph.D., Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics (Photo by Mario Morgado)

A research article by University of Vermont Distinguished Professor and Chair of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics Susan Wallace, Ph.D., has been selected by the Environmental Mutagenesis and Genomics Society (EMGS) as the Editor’s Choice in the December 2013 edition of Environmental and Molecular Mutagenesis. Highlighted on the cover and titled “DNA Glycosylases Search for and Remove Oxidized DNA Bases,” this article describes the relationship between structure and function in an important family of proteins that repairs DNA.

Wallace’s article reviews the biology and biochemistry of DNA glycosylases responsible for the repair of DNA damage induced by reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROS damage underlies many illnesses, including cancer and cardiovascular disease. According to EMGS, ROS are a natural byproduct of cellular energy production and ROS cells have evolved many ways to address the potentially negative effects of ROS production. These include specific proteins that repair ROS-induced DNA damage. Wallace has spent much of her career defining the nature of DNA damage generated by oxidative lesions and how these DNA alterations lead to mutations. In addition, her laboratory has identified and characterized a number of the proteins that repair this damage. In this review, she provides an overview of the DNA glycosylases that recognize DNA bases altered by ROS and describes the novel way some of them act. More importantly, Wallace’s article also demonstrates how structure defines function in these proteins. Understanding how glycosylase structure defines normal responses to ROS-induced DNA damage will aid in understanding the role mutant DNA glycosylases might play in human disease.

A member of the UVM faculty since 1988, Wallace received an M.S. degree in bioradiology from the University of California, Berkeley, a Ph.D. in biophysics from the Cornell University Graduate School of Medical Sciences, Sloan Kettering Division, and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in immunochemistry at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons. She is the author of more than 180 publications and book chapters and currently serves as an associate editor of the journals DNA Repair and Molecular Cancer Research.

The Environmental Mutagen Society is the primary professional society for scientists involved in research into environmental causes and consequences of damage to the genome and epigenome. The Society’s mission is to transmit emerging knowledge and support national and international efforts to ensure a healthy, sustainable environment for future generations. The Society’s Annual Meeting is unique in bringing together scientists who carry out basic research with those involved in risk estimation and regulatory concerns related to the consequences of exposure to environmental, industrial, and pharmaceutical agents. The result is a dynamic meeting that is sufficiently large enough to cover a broad range of contemporary topics, yet focused and small enough to facilitate interactions between students and renowned scientists in academia, government, and industry.