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
Complete skin regeneration system of fish unraveled
24.04.2018 | Tokyo Institute of Technology
Scientists generate an atlas of the human genome using stem cells
24.04.2018 | The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
At the Hannover Messe 2018, the Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und-prüfung (BAM) will show how, in the future, astronauts could produce their own tools or spare parts in zero gravity using 3D printing. This will reduce, weight and transport costs for space missions. Visitors can experience the innovative additive manufacturing process live at the fair.
Powder-based additive manufacturing in zero gravity is the name of the project in which a component is produced by applying metallic powder layers and then...
Physicists at the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics, which is jointly run by Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, have developed a high-power laser system that generates ultrashort pulses of light covering a large share of the mid-infrared spectrum. The researchers envisage a wide range of applications for the technology – in the early diagnosis of cancer, for instance.
Molecules are the building blocks of life. Like all other organisms, we are made of them. They control our biorhythm, and they can also reflect our state of...
University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.
Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.
Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.
Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...
Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.
The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
09.04.2018 | Event News
24.04.2018 | Information Technology
24.04.2018 | Earth Sciences
24.04.2018 | Life Sciences