Paul L. Modrich (Primary)

James B. Duke Professor of Biochemistry
Member of the Duke Cancer Institute
Modrich Lab, Primary Lab
Research Interests: 

Research interests include Nucleic Acid Biochemistry, Cancer Biology, and Origins of Mutation.

Lab Location
Room 156A, Nanaline Duke Building
Office Location

156A Nanaline H Duke, Durham, NC 27708

Box 3711 Med Ctr, Durham, NC 27710

(919) 684-2775

We study mismatch repair, an important regulator of mutation production that corrects DNA biosynthetic errors, suppresses recombination between quasi-homologous DNA sequences, and in mammalian cells, participates in the cellular response to certain types of DNA chemical damage. Inactivation of human mismatch repair confers strong cancer predisposition and renders tumor cells resistant to certain chemotherapeutic drugs.  As one approach to understanding this pathway, we have identified the activities responsible for replication error correction in both E. coli and human cells and have reconstituted strand-directed repair of mismatched base pairs using purified components in both cases.  Analysis of these reactions, as well as partial reactions supported by subsets of the required proteins, has clarified the mechanisms of E. coli and human mismatch repair.  In the case of the human pathway, these studies have established the functions of MutSalpha and MutLalpha, defects in either of which are the cause of Lynch syndrome, the most common form of hereditary cancer.

Current work addresses involvement of human mismatch repair in the cellular response to anti-cancer DNA-damaging drugs, inhibition of human mismatch repair by the carcinogen/mutagen Cd2+, and function of the pathway in the expansion of (CAG)n/(CTG)n triplet repeat sequences, the cause of a number of neurodegenerative diseases.

Honors and Awards
  • Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2015.  Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
  • American Cancer Society Medal of Honor.  2005
  • Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences.  2004
  • Member, Institute of Medicine.  2003
  • Feodor Lynen Medal.  2000
  • General Motors Mott Prize in Cancer Research.  1996
  • Member, National Academy of Sciences.  1993
  • Ph.D., Stanford University 1973
  • B.S., Massachusetts Institute of Technology 1968