Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Evolution boosted anti-cancer prowess of a primordial gene


Arf gene became more effective in stemming cell growth when it joined forces with p53

Researchers at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital have looked back in evolutionary time and identified what may be a gene that was once only moderately effective in slowing down cellular reproduction, until it linked up with a more efficient set of genes to create a powerful anti-cancer response.

The gene, called Arf, was already known to have cancer-suppressing activity. Arf responds to cancer-causing environments by activating the well-known tumor suppressor gene, p53. In turn, p53 activates a battery of other genes to stop cell growth or, in extreme cases, to trigger cell death in response to a variety of harmful conditions, such as DNA damage or activation of oncogenes (cancer-causing genes). In fact, loss of Arf or p53 is a common event in many human cancers.

But the new results suggest that Arf plays a role far older in evolutionary terms than its more familiar job of stimulating p53 to prevent cancer. The St. Jude findings suggest that Arf originally evolved to slow the cell’s metabolism and growth by limiting production of ribosomes. Ribosomes, made up of RNA (de-coded DNA) and proteins, guide the production of all other cellular proteins according to the genetic code. The new work shows that Arf interferes with production of the RNA components of ribosomes in order to exert some control of protein production and cell growth.

"About 80 percent of a cell’s RNA is tied up in ribosomes," said Charles Sherr, M.D., Ph.D., a member of the Genetics & Tumor Cell Biology Department at St. Jude and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. "In fact, producing ribosomes is practically what cells do for a living. It’s their major energy-consuming activity. So it makes sense that any limitation on ribosome production would slow cell growth."

Sherr’s team believes that Arf counteracts excessive growth-promoting stimuli by interfering with ribosome production. But inhibiting ribosomal production isn’t a particularly efficient way to control cell growth. "On the other hand, p53 activates many growth suppressive genes," Sherr said. "So Arf appears to have become more efficient because, by evolving a way to activate p53, it was able to extend its reach and inhibit many more cellular responses apart from ribosome synthesis."

Sherr is senior author of a report on these findings published in the February 2003 issue of Molecular Cell. Other authors of the study include Masataka Sugimoto, Mei-Ling Kuo and Martine F. Roussel, all of whom are St. Jude investigators.

The group studied the role of Arf in controlling ribosomal RNA production using a variety of mouse cells. The effects were then examined by inserting Arf genes into harmless viruses used to infect the cells, and by tracking the levels of newly synthesized RNA in the cells under various experimental conditions. The exact mechanism by which Arf interferes with ribosomal RNA synthesis remains unclear and is a subject for future research, according to Sherr.

This work was supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, an NIH Cancer Center Core Grant to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and by ALSAC, the fund-raising arm of St. Jude.

About St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, in Memphis, Tennessee, was founded by the late entertainer Danny Thomas. The hospital is an internationally recognized biomedical research center dedicated to finding cures for catastrophic diseases of childhood. The hospital’s work is supported through funds raised by ALSAC. ALSAC covers all costs not covered by insurance for medical treatment rendered at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Families without insurance are never asked to pay. For more information, please visit

Bonnie Cameron | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Novel mechanisms of action discovered for the skin cancer medication Imiquimod
21.10.2016 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Second research flight into zero gravity
21.10.2016 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Novel mechanisms of action discovered for the skin cancer medication Imiquimod

21.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Second research flight into zero gravity

21.10.2016 | Life Sciences

How Does Friendly Fire Happen in the Pancreas?

21.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>