Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Colorectal Cancer : The Notch Gene Plays a Key Role

17.06.2005


Colorectal Cancer : The Notch Gene Plays a Key Role in Intestinal Development, Promising Therapeutic Perspectives and new Insights into Carcinogenesis


Histological analysis of human intestinal tissue Lumenal side (mucosa) covered with epithelium and its villi. Photo credit: X. Sastre / Institut Curie


Quand Notch est “allumé en permanence” In this intestinal mucosa section of newborn mice, stem cells and progenitor cells appear in green. Left picture: In the intestine of normal mouse, stem cells and progenitor cells are localised at the base of the villi. Right picture: in mouse where Notch is permanently switch on, stem cells and progenitor cells spread all along the villi because of their excessive proliferation. Photo credit: S. Fre / Institut Curie



Through a long-standing collaboration, Spyros Artavanis-Tsakonas and his group in Boston and Daniel Louvard’s CNRS team at the Institut Curie have discovered that the Notch gene plays a key role in intestinal development. Notch maintains the balance between stem cells and differentiated cells in the intestinal epithelium, thereby playing an essential function in renewal of intestinal tissue.

At the same time the group of Hans Clevers in the Netherlands, in collaboration with Daniel Louvard’s team, has shown that blocking Notch activity forces cellular differentiation in the mouse intestine and reduces the growth of polyps, the precursors of colorectal tumors.


These discoveries are published in the June 16th 2005 issue of Nature. They enhance our understanding of colorectal cancer, notably the role of stem cells in tumor development, and point to promising ways of treating this common disease.

Cancer results from a series of genetic accidents that occur in stages: anomalies accumulate in genes that regulate vital processes (division, differentiation, apoptosis, repair).

Loss of control of cell division is an essential feature of cancer cells, but it is not the only one. Carcinogenesis can be viewed as the cell progressively losing its properties and ending up “forgetting” the specialized task for which its has been programmed. Tumor cells return to a relatively undifferentiated state and in a sense follow the opposite path to stem cells, whose descendents differentiate during division. Study of this "reverse mirror" should therefore enhance our understanding of carcinogenesis.

The intestine as a stem cell "reservoir"

While stem cells have long been associated with the embryo, we now know that adults too have a reserve of stem cells which participate in the renewal of the hundreds of billions of cells that die in our body every day.

But what role do stem cells in adults play in cancer development?

The intestinal epithelium constitutes a very interesting model for biologists because both stem cells and progenitor cells are found at their base (see box), and because cancer of the colon is the most common cancer in Western countries.

An exemplary and long-standing collaboration between Spyros Artavanis-Tsakonas and his group at the Harvard Medical School and the CNRS team of Daniel Louvard at the Institut Curie 1) has shed new light on the cellular mechanisms controlling intestinal morphogenesis and self-renewal through studies of the Notch signaling pathway (see box). This collaboration will be further extended with the arrival of Spyros Artavanis-Tsakonas at the Institut Curie as the head of a new Department of Developmental Biology.

By permanently "switching on" the Notch gene in the mouse, Silvia Fre 2) has shown that the stem cells and progenitor cells of intestinal crypts cease to specialize and continue to proliferate. The result is an amplification of the undifferentiated compartment of the intestinal epithelium. This findings could allow the isolation and identification of these rare cells, which are responsible for intestinal renewal and at the origin of tumor development. The Notch gene is therefore a key player in the maintenance of the undifferentiated state of these cells in the intestinal epithelium.

The same issue of Nature reports a study by Hans Clevers and his team — to which Sylvie Robine (Inserm Director of Research) of Daniel Louvard’s team at the Institut Curie contributed, along with Swiss and British teams — showing that when the Notch gene is "switched off" the progenitor cells are forced to differentiate.

These two studies provide the first direct evidence of Notch involvement in functioning of the intestine: in its role as a “switch”, Notch maintains the balance between stem cells and differentiated cells.

Therapeutic promise in colorectal cancer

Initially developed to treat Alzheimer’s disease, g-secretase inhibitors block Notch activation, and so Hans Clevers and his colleagues administered them to mice with colon adenoma. Treatment with g-secretase inhibitors forced tumor cells to specialize and so led to regression of adenomas. These inhibitors may therefore offer a promising therapeutic approach to colorectal cancer, one of the most frequent tumors in France and worldwide (see "For more information").

Elucidating the link between cancer and stem cells

The model developed by Spyros Artavanis-Tsakonas, Daniel Louvard and their research teams will open new avenues to more detailed studies of how progenitor cells and stem cells participate in the development of colorectal cancer. Given the fast rate of tissue turnover in the gut (3 to 5 days), alterations in the already differentiated cells of the villi have little time to give rise to tumor cells. So it would seem that only alterations affecting the longlived stem cells or progenitor cells could account for a colorectal tumor. This animal model will therefore help clarify the growth of colorectal tumors, as well as the role and function of stem cells and their potential as therapeutic targets.

These new findings cast light on colorectal cancer, one of the world’s most frequent cancers, and suggest promising approaches to its treatment. The work of Daniel Louvard’s group is funded by the Institut Curie, the Ministry of Research, and the CNRS, and has also been supported for 10 years by the Association pour la Recherche sur le Cancer (ARC).

The work of Prof. Spyros Artavanis-Tsakonas receives funding from various sources, including the Collège de France where in 2000 he took over the Chair of Genetics and Biology of Development and its teaching duties from Nicole Le Douarin.

Catherine Goupillon | alfa
Further information:
http://www.nature.com/nature/index.html
http://www.curie.fr

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Cells communicate in a dynamic code
19.02.2018 | California Institute of Technology

nachricht Studying mitosis' structure to understand the inside of cancer cells
19.02.2018 | Biophysical Society

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

Im Focus: Hybrid optics bring color imaging using ultrathin metalenses into focus

For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.

But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...

Im Focus: Stem cell divisions in the adult brain seen for the first time

Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.

The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...

Im Focus: Interference as a new method for cooling quantum devices

Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters

Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Contacting the molecular world through graphene nanoribbons

19.02.2018 | Materials Sciences

When Proteins Shake Hands

19.02.2018 | Materials Sciences

Cells communicate in a dynamic code

19.02.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>