Research Highlights

DNA repair protects the nervous system

Published online 22 March 2010

Mohammed Yahia

Damage to DNA strands can lead to several defects in the development of the nervous system. To counter this, the body produces certain proteins, such as XRCC1, which are responsible for single-strand break repair (SSBR) in DNA.

So far, the exact role that XRCC1 plays in the development and maintenance of the nervous system has been unclear. However, a group of researchers, including Sherif El-Khamisy of Ain Shams University, Egypt, found that XRCC1 is important during genesis of the nervous system and for the development of interneurons in the cerebellum.

XRCC1-deficient test mice also showed an increase in strand breaks in mature nerve cells and progressive mild ataxia with episodic spasms. After inducing DNA-strand breaks by radiation and hydrogen peroxide, neurons lacking the protein remained unrepaired after a prolonged recovery period in a safe environment, while repair was robust in control cells.

The researchers suggest further investigations into the role of cerebellar interneurons in human neurological diseases resulting from DNA-repair deficiency, since the cerebellum is often affected by these conditions.


  1. Lee, Y. et al. The genesis of cerebellar interneurons and the prevention of neural DNA damage require XRCC1. Nature. Neurosci. 12, 973-980 (2009). | Article