Turns out that tardigrades, thanks to their having the molecular equivalent of cotton candy, can survive in outer space. In fact, they can survive just about anything, from being doused with hydrogen peroxide to being bombarded with X-rays, and even cosmic rays. These types of radiation and chemical exposures can create hydroxyl radicals (molecules composed of hydrogen and oxygen) that can greatly damage DNA.
Previous research indicated that a protein called Dsup, for damage suppressor, shields the tardigrade species Ramazzottius varieornatus from radiation. When added to human cells, the protein also protects against radiation. Now researchers have found out how.
Dsup surrounds nucleosomes — DNA wound around proteins called histones — “like a fluffy cloud of cotton candy,” molecular biologist James Kadonaga of the University of California, San Diego in La Jolla and colleagues report October 1 in eLife. That cloud keeps hydroxyl radicals away from DNA.
More details of this over at ScienceNews.