An international research team led by cell biologists at the University of California, Riverside has uncovered a new insight into colon cancer, the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. The research provides potential new avenues for diagnosing and treating the disease.
Led by Frances Sladek at UC Riverside and Graham Robertson at the University of Sydney, Australia, the team analyzed about 450 human colon cancer specimens and found that in nearly 80 percent of them the variants of a gene, HNF4A, are out of balance.
Human beings express several variants of the HNF4A gene, classified as P1 and P2 variants. Some tissues, like liver, have just one type of variant but the colon has both P1 and P2 variants. The P1 variant is found in the nuclei of cells in the normal colon but in the human colon cancer samples this variant is frequently either absent or located outside of the nucleus and, presumably, no longer functional.
Using human colon cancer cell lines and in vitro assays, the researchers found that the imbalance observed in the human tumor tissues seemed to be the result of a complex, multi-step process by an enzyme, Src kinase. Src kinase has been known to be activated in colon cancer but, until now, it was not known to act on the HNF4a protein (HNF4A is the gene, a stretch of DNA; HNF4a is the protein encoded by HNF4A). The UCR group found that activated Src modifies the P1 but not the P2 variant. The net result is loss of the P1 variant in the nuclei of cells in the colon.
Study results appeared online last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"Loss of nuclear P1 HNF4a protein in the colon may be an early sign of colon cancer," explained Sladek, a professor of cell biology and toxicologist. "A healthy colon has a good but delicate balance of the two HNF4a variants. If you could prevent the loss of the P1 variant via drugs, you might be able to maintain a normal colon and prevent colon cancer."
The researchers found another factor that increases a person's susceptibility to the disease: certain "single nucleotide polymorphisms" or SNPs located in the HNF4A gene. An SNP is a DNA sequence variation — a minor change in the genomic sequence that accounts for the variations we see between individuals. SNPs are the most common type of genetic variation among people.
"Individuals with certain SNPs may be more susceptible to colon cancer," said Karthikeyani Chellappa, a postdoctoral researcher in Sladek's lab and the first author of the research paper. "That's because these SNPs result in a greater amount of modification and a faster degradation of HNF4a by Src, at least in cell-based assays. It still needs to be investigated, though, whether individuals carrying these SNPs are indeed more susceptible to colon cancer."
Sladek noted that drugs are already available for inhibiting the activity of Src kinase.
"Some of these drugs are in clinical trials for colon cancer," she said. "It would be exciting to determine whether these drugs can maintain the P1 HNF4a protein levels, as well as inhibit the Src kinase activity."
A multifactorial disease influenced by genetics and the environment, colon cancer starts as a small polyp in the large intestine (colon) or the rectum (end of the colon). While most of the polyps are benign, some do turn cancerous. With proper screening, the disease can be detected early, when it is most curable.
Sladek, Chellappa and Robertson were joined in the research by Songqin Pan and Jake M. Schnabl at UCR; Lucy Jankova, Caroline L-S. Fung, Charles Chan, Owen F. Dent and Stephen J. Clarke at the University of Sydney, Australia; and Yann Brelivet of the Institut de Génétique et de Biologie Moléculaire et Cellulaire, Illkirch, France. Robertson and the Australian members of the team performed all the analysis of the human tumor samples.
The research was supported in part by a National Institutes of Health grant to Sladek.
The University of California, Riverside (http://www.ucr.edu) is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 20,500 students. The campus will open a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion. A broadcast studio with fiber cable to the AT&T Hollywood hub is available for live or taped interviews. UCR also has ISDN for radio interviews. To learn more, call 951-UCR-NEWS.
Iqbal Pittalwala | EurekAlert!
Navigational view of the brain thanks to powerful X-rays
18.10.2017 | Georgia Institute of Technology
Separating methane and CO2 will become more efficient
18.10.2017 | KU Leuven
University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event
On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...
Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.
Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....
Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).
When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...
Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.
How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.
It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...
17.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
18.10.2017 | Materials Sciences
18.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
18.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy