A protein that drives the development of cancer. A second protein that suppresses the harmful activity of the first: this could open up new paths for treatment, as explained by a Würzburg research group in the journal “Nature”.
Cancers develop due to changes in genetic material that ultimately trigger uncontrolled cell growth. In the majority of human tumors, the Myc gene has been altered such that it is excessively active. As a consequence, the tumor cells produce far too many Myc proteins.
“We know from numerous experiments that increased quantities of Myc boost cell growth, modify the metabolism, and make a very significant contribution to tumor development,” says Professor Martin Eilers, cancer researcher at the University of Würzburg’s Biocenter.
What exactly do the Myc proteins do? They bind themselves to the genetic material in the cell nucleus and ensure that genes are activated. However, given that there is an “overdose” of them in tumor cells, they regulate very different genes there than in normal cells – with fatal consequences. “This pattern of gene activation is very specific for individual tumors. It even allows statements to be made about how aggressive a tumor is, and it enables prognoses concerning the progression of the disease,” says Eilers.
Proteins in pairs inhibit gene activation
Scientists know of a total of a few hundred genes that are activated in tumor cells by Myc proteins. But in fact the Myc proteins bind to tens of thousands of genes. Why do they attach themselves to so many genes, but only activate a few of them? What exactly constitutes the difference between binding and activation? This question has always puzzled scientists.
Now, more clarity is being brought to this issue by new research findings from the University of Würzburg that have just been published in the magazine “Nature”. Susanne Walz, Francesca Lorenzin, Elmar Wolf, and Martin Eilers from the Biocenter have discovered that the Myc proteins in tumor cells are not always alone when they bind to the genes. They are usually closely connected to a partner protein (Miz1). While Myc on its own activates a gene, the exact opposite happens if both proteins are present as a pair: gene activation is suppressed.
Defense response to overdose of Myc proteins
The Würzburg research group interprets this as a defense response: “It would appear that the cells recognize that they are producing too much Myc and try to counteract the stress created by this excessive growth signal.” This generates a balance between activation and suppression that is slightly different for every gene in tumor cells. This in turn results in the characteristic gene activation patterns that distinguish tumor cells from normal cells.
Further pursuing new approaches to treatment
According to Eilers, this new finding is not just of interest to basic research: “We can now identify genes that are specifically only transcribed in tumors and not in normal cells,” explains the professor. This offers new starting points for treatment. Eilers’ team is now keen to pursue these new approaches further and to do so in close collaboration with the cancer center at the university and university hospital, the “Comprehensive Cancer Center Mainfranken”.
Prof. Dr. Martin Eilers, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Biocenter at the University of Würzburg, T +49 (0)931 31-84111, Martin.Eilers@biozentrum.uni-wuerzburg.de
Robert Emmerich | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
New catalyst controls activation of a carbon-hydrogen bond
21.11.2017 | Emory Health Sciences
The main switch
21.11.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau
The WHO reports an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths each year. The disease mostly affects tropical and subtropical regions and in particular the African continent. The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME and the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen for a new test method to detect malaria parasites in blood. The idea of the research project “NanoFRET” is to develop a highly sensitive and reliable rapid diagnostic test so that patient treatment can begin as early as possible.
Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite. The most dangerous form of malaria is malaria tropica. Left untreated, it is fatal in most cases....
The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.
Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...
Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.
That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...
Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.
During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....
The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.
Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...
15.11.2017 | Event News
15.11.2017 | Event News
30.10.2017 | Event News
21.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
21.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
21.11.2017 | Life Sciences