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Home > Research > Researchers > Sarah Allinson
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Current Postgraduate Research Students

Sarah Allinson supervises 2 postgraduate research students. Some of the students have produced research profiles, these are listed below:

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Dr Sarah Allinson

Senior Lecturer

Sarah Allinson

Furness Building

Lancaster University


Lancaster LA1 4YG

United Kingdom

Tel: +44 1524 593922


Research overview

Dr Allinson's research concentrates on the mechanisms underlying mammalian DNA repair processes, particularly the base excision and single strand break repair pathways.

Current research projects involve characterising the role of certain DNA repair enzymes in determining repair efficiency. In collaboration with Professor Trevor McMillan she is also investigating the cellular response to UV radiation.

PhD supervision

Development of a novel bioassay for UVA-induced skin damage in collaboration with Trevor McMillan. See http://www.findaphd.com/search/ProjectDetails.aspx?PJID=32497 for further details or email me at the address above.

Research Interests


Cellular DNA is inherently unstable and is continually undergoing damage and degradation. Such damage can be caused by exposure to environmental carcinogens and also as a consequence of normal cellular metabolism, for example via the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). My research is aimed at understanding the cellular response to DNA damage, with particular emphasis on the base excision repair (BER) and single strand break repair (SSBR) pathways.

Understanding how DNA repair is regulated at the level of single repair events and also within the cell as a whole can aid our understanding of inter-individual variation in cancer susceptibility and hopefully provide clues as to how repair in tumour cells may be attenuated to render cancer treatments more effective. With this aim in mind, there are a number of projects currently in progress in my lab.

Mechanistic studies of DNA repair

DNA repair pathways are multi-step processes involving a number of different enzymes and a network of protein-protein interactions. My research on DNA repair is aimed at understanding how the BER and SSBR pathways are co-ordinated and also how their efficiency might be affected by environmental carcinogens such as heavy metals. Through the detailed characterisation of repair of model DNA substrates by purified recombinant enzymes and cell extracts, facilitated by techniques such as site-directed mutagenesis, siRNA and protein-DNA interaction assays, we aim to gain a new mechanistic insight into how damaged DNA is repaired in vivo.

We have applied these methods to the study of the bifunctional SSBR enzyme, polynucleotide kinase (PNK). We were able to show that its two activities, kinase and phosphatase, were inter-dependent - with the phosphatase activity taking precedence over the kinase activity. More recently, we have shown that both activities of PNK are inhibited by the heavy metal carcinogen, cadmium.

The cellular response to UVA exposure

In collaboration with Trevor McMillan's group we are currently investigating the effects of UVA exposure on human cells. Originally thought not to be a significant risk factor for skin cancer, UVA is now believed to contribute as much as 10-20% of the cancer-causing dose of sunlight. UVA induces DNA damage indirectly via photosensitiser-mediated production of ROS. One area of research that we are currently actively pursuing involves characterising the effects of UVA on stress response pathways and seeing how they differ from those induced by shorter wavelength UVB.

Current Teaching

BIOL437 Molecular Basis of Cancer: Module organiser and lecturer
BIOL463 Cell Biology Research Skills: Lecturer
BIOL121 Impact of Microbes: Lecturer
BIOL253 Genetics: Lecturer
Special Study Module convenor on the Medicine MBChB degree

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