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Laboratory for molecular biology

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Associated mitochondria group

The Laboratory for Molecular Biology investigates basic biological processes associated with cellular responses to DNA damage including DNA repair pathways and mechanism for tolerance, scavenging and adaptation. Focus has been on the repair of endogenous DNA damage and mechanisms for removal of base damage to DNA. At the cellular and organismal level, the aim is to understand mechanisms for genome maintenance in mammalian as well as microbial cells and to develop new interventions for preventing cancer and neurological disease associated with genome instability caused by DNA damage.


Cellular genomes are continuously challenged by physical, chemical and biological agents that introduce changes of the chemical structure of the DNA. Intracellular reactive metabolites such as reactive oxygen species and alkylating compounds are important inducers of such changes. Nevertheless, mutation frequencies are low because of very efficient pathways for DNA repair and DNA recombination, which remove DNA damage and conserve at least one functional copy of the genome. Nevertheless, in humans, DNA damage will induce genome instability that is associated with disease and degenerative disorders. Challenges are to understand the mechanisms for cellular protection against DNA damage and its role in cancer, ageing and neurological disease.


  • Alkylation and oxidative DNA damage and repair - role in ageing, cancer and neurological disease
  • Functional genomics of DNA repair
  • Model studies of DNA repair and ageing in yeast
  • RNA genes in biological responses to DNA damage
  • Mechanisms of DNA repair and genome maintenance in microbial cells and animal viruses
  • Genome stability and maintenance in stem cells
  • The WRN premature ageing syndrome and role in DNA recombination

Key achievements

Basic biology of nucleotide excision repair (Nature 263:524-6, 1976; PNAS 75:2569-
73,1978; PNAS 79:988-92,1982; PNAS 87:191-4,1990; EMBO J. 3:757-60, 1994), genetics and mechanisms for repair of alkylation damage to DNA (JMB 140:101-27,1980; Nature 296:775-7,1982; EMBO J 9:4563-8,1990; EMBO J 17:363-7,1998; Nature 419:178-82,2002; Nature 421:859-63,2003), identification, cloning and characterization of genes for repair of oxidative DNA damage in eukaryotes (PNAS 93:10735-40,1996; EMBO J 16:6314-22,1997; MCB 19:3779-87,1999; NAR 30:4926-36,2002). Significant contributions have also been made in the fields of brain glutamate transport (Nature 360:464-7,1992, Eur. J. Nurosci., 6:936-42,1994), haematopoiesis (Blood 91:4127-35,1998), and bioinformatics (Bioinformatics 16:699-706,2000).

Group leader

Professor Magnar Bjørås

Centre for Molecular Biology and Neuroscience
Department of Microbiology
Oslo University Hospital
PO Box 4950 Nydalen
NO-0424 Oslo, Norway

Tel: +47 23074059
Fax: +47 23074061

Protein conformational changes associated with DNA damage recognition (hOGG1,Yellow: native; green: bound to DNA)

Centre for Molecular Biology and Neuroscience (CMBN)
PO Box 1105 Blindern, NO-0317 Oslo, Norway. Tel: +47 22851528. Fax: +47 22851488