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
Multi-institutional collaboration uncovers how molecular machines assemble
02.12.2016 | Salk Institute
Fertilized egg cells trigger and monitor loss of sperm’s epigenetic memory
02.12.2016 | IMBA - Institut für Molekulare Biotechnologie der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften GmbH
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy