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
Great apes communicate cooperatively
25.05.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Ornithologie
Rice study decodes genetic circuitry for bacterial spore formation
24.05.2016 | Rice University
Permanent magnets are very important for technologies of the future like electromobility and renewable energy, and rare earth elements (REE) are necessary for their manufacture. The Fraunhofer Institute for Mechanics of Materials IWM in Freiburg, Germany, has now succeeded in identifying promising approaches and materials for new permanent magnets through use of an in-house simulation process based on high-throughput screening (HTS). The team was able to improve magnetic properties this way and at the same time replaced REE with elements that are less expensive and readily available. The results were published in the online technical journal “Scientific Reports”.
The starting point for IWM researchers Wolfgang Körner, Georg Krugel, and Christian Elsässer was a neodymium-iron-nitrogen compound based on a type of...
In the Beyond EUV project, the Fraunhofer Institutes for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen and for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF in Jena are developing key technologies for the manufacture of a new generation of microchips using EUV radiation at a wavelength of 6.7 nm. The resulting structures are barely thicker than single atoms, and they make it possible to produce extremely integrated circuits for such items as wearables or mind-controlled prosthetic limbs.
In 1965 Gordon Moore formulated the law that came to be named after him, which states that the complexity of integrated circuits doubles every one to two...
Characterization of high-quality material reveals important details relevant to next generation nanoelectronic devices
Quantum mechanics is the field of physics governing the behavior of things on atomic scales, where things work very differently from our everyday world.
When current comes in discrete packages: Viennese scientists unravel the quantum properties of the carbon material graphene
In 2010 the Nobel Prize in physics was awarded for the discovery of the exceptional material graphene, which consists of a single layer of carbon atoms...
The trend-forward world of display technology relies on innovative materials and novel approaches to steadily advance the visual experience, for example through higher pixel densities, better contrast, larger formats or user-friendler design. Fraunhofer ISC’s newly developed materials for optics and electronics now broaden the application potential of next generation displays. Learn about lower cost-effective wet-chemical printing procedures and the new materials at the Fraunhofer ISC booth # 1021 in North Hall D during the SID International Symposium on Information Display held from 22 to 27 May 2016 at San Francisco’s Moscone Center.
24.05.2016 | Event News
20.05.2016 | Event News
19.05.2016 | Event News
25.05.2016 | Trade Fair News
25.05.2016 | Life Sciences
25.05.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering