Research in the laboratory of Assistant Professor Frank J. Slack at Yale University has identified a new way that a familiar gene is regulated in lung cancer, presenting new possibilities for diagnosis and treatment. The work is reported in March issues of the journals Cell and Developmental Cell.
The oncogene Ras is out of control in about 20 percent of cancers where it is over-expressed or activated by mutation. According to Slack, a member of the Yale Cancer Center, it is one of the most identifiable causes in some forms of lung cancer. His team has identified let-7, a natural and separately transcribed RNA that maps to a chromosomal region associated with lung cancer as a regulator of Ras expression.
DNA of plants and animals contains sequences encoding microRNAs, important regulators of development, that control processes determining cell type and cell death. "The let-7 microRNA regulates Ras by binding to the message for Ras and likely inhibits translation of the Ras protein," said Slack. "The microRNA does not revert a mutated Ras to normal; instead it acts like a brake on an accelerated Ras."
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