In DepthNobel Prizes

DNA's repair tricks win chemistry's top prize

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Science  16 Oct 2015:
Vol. 350, Issue 6258, pp. 266
DOI: 10.1126/science.350.6258.266

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Considering how much depends on the messages it bears, DNA is an alarmingly fragile molecule. It's vulnerable to ultraviolet light and mutagenic chemicals, as well as spontaneous decay. Life has survived through the ages because enzymes inside every cell ensure that DNA remains in proper working order. This year's Nobel Prize in Chemistry, announced 7 October, recognizes three scientists who discovered key mechanisms for fixing the damage. "These are classic studies and a great prize for DNA repair," says Jacqueline Barton, a chemist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. The discoveries were made in the 1970s and 1980s by Paul Modrich of Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, North Carolina; Aziz Sancar of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill—the first Turkish scientist to receive a Nobel—and Tomas Lindahl of the Francis Crick Institute at Clare Hall Laboratory in Hertfordshire, U.K.