Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Novel enzyme offers new look at male hormone regulation

UNC scientists’ findings have implications for prostate cancer

For the second time in less than a year, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill scientists have purified a novel protein and have shown it can alter gene activity by reversing a molecular modification previously thought permanent.

The findings, published today (May 5) in the journal Cell, also show that the new protein plays a role in gene activation mediated by androgen receptor, a protein that responds to androgen hormones. In this regard, the novel protein may figure in the development of prostate cancer.

Androgens, particularly testosterone and dihydrotestosterone, determine male secondary sex characteristics and stimulate prostate cell growth. Lowering androgen levels usually can make prostate cancers shrink or grow more slowly.

In the study, the researchers said the new protein called JHDM2A, like the protein they reported on in the journal Nature in December 2005, is able to remove a methyl group from histone H3, one of four histone proteins bound to all genes.

"Human genes are so tightly compact within the nucleus that if the DNA of a single cell were unwound and stretched, it would be a line of about two meters in length. Histones are necessary to package the DNA so that it fits inside a cell’s nucleus," said senior author Dr. Yi Zhang, professor of biochemistry and biophysics at UNC’s School of Medicine and the university’s first Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator.

Zhang also is a member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Because histones are so intimately associated with DNA, even slight chemical alterations of these proteins can have profound effects on nearby genes. Depending on their precise location and how many methyl groups are added, the presence of alterations can either turn on or turn off a gene.

In the study, Zhang learned that the JHDM2A specifically removes methyl-groups from lysine 9 of histone H3.

"The important thing is that H3K9 demethylation has been linked to transcription silencing, turning genes off. So that led us to pay attention to this protein’s role in reversing whatever function K9 methylation might have," Zhang said.

In their experiments, the researchers learned that consistent with reversing a marker of gene silencing (H3K9 methylation), the protein functions as a co-activator – in this case, a co-activator for the androgen receptor target genes.

Using human tissue cultures, including prostate cells, Zhang and his colleagues found that over-expression of JHDM2A greatly reduced H3K9 methylation level and led to upregulation, or switching on, of androgen receptor target genes. In contrast, when methylation was increased, the gene was silenced – switched off.

It remains unclear for how many different human genes JHDM2A is a primary regulator. According to Zhang, the new findings indicate that the protein will provide another tool to enlist in studies of gene expression regulation.

"Given the androgen receptor link, we’re now trying to identify the downstream target genes, as well as its role in prostate cancer," he said.

"Theoretically, this protein is a very important tool for gene expression studies. Practically, it provides a potential target for prostate cancer because of its enzymatic activity. And it is enzymatic activity that’s the favorite target of drug development."

Leslie H. Lang | 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

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>