Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Hunt for DNA amplified in cancers uncovers important target gene

09.08.2006
Gene amplification links growth controlling pathway from Drosophila to human cancers

Researchers at Harvard Medical School (HMS) and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) have discovered a new cancer-promoting role for a gene potentially involved in breast, liver, and other kinds of cancers. Their discovery that the gene YAP can transform mammary epithelial cells opens the door to understanding how a novel cell growth controlling pathway first discovered in fruit flies might be important in human cancers. This work is published in the Aug. 8 online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and will appear in the Aug. 15 print edition.

"We screened the DNA from breast cancer cells for amplifications that are associated with tumor development. The identification of these new potential cancer-causing genes is critical to uncovering novel pathways that drive the conversion of a normal cell to a cancerous one." says senior author Daniel Haber, MD, PhD, the Laurel Schwartz professor of medicine at HMS and MGH and director of the MGH Cancer Center. This research was conducted jointly by Haber's lab and the lab of Joan Brugge, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Cell Biology at HMS.

Through microarray analysis of a mammary tumor in a BRCA1/p53 deficient mouse model, Haber's group discovered an amplified region of DNA in the mouse breast tumor that contained only one known gene, called YAP.

"A similar region of DNA is also amplified in some human tumors, but this amplified region often contains other genes that are known to promote cell survival," says Haber, who worked with co-authors Jianmin Zhang, PhD, and Gromoslaw Smolen, PhD, both research fellows at MGH. "Thus, whether the YAP gene could play a role in these cancers had been largely ignored. The amplified region we discovered excluded these other genes, which allowed us to focus on YAP as a new candidate."

The YAP gene has an interesting literature associated with it that comes from the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. The Drosophila version of the YAP gene, called Yorkie (Yki), functions to promote both cell division and cell survival and is controlled by several other genes called Hippo (Hpo), Salvador (Sav), Warts (Wts), and Mats. The mutation of any of these upstream genes or the overexpression of Yki causes dramatic overgrowth of cells in the Drosophila eye or wing. This coupling of cell division and cell survival is unique – other genes that promote cell division, for example, Myc, also sensitize a cell to death.

"To use the car analogy that is often applied to cancer models, activation of Myc is like stepping on the gas to activate cell division but also lightly tapping on the brakes at the same time, so that should anything go wrong during division, the car can very quickly be stopped, or the cell can be removed by cell death," says first author Michael Overholtzer, PhD, research fellow in cell biology at HMS. "Yki activation, on the other hand, is like stepping on the gas and disabling the brakes at the same time. Such an activity would be thought to be coveted by cancer cells. Therefore these genes, Yki (YAP), Hpo, Sav, Wts, and Mats, most of which were first discovered in the fruit fly, represent a relatively new and exciting pathway that might control human cancers."

Earlier studies on YAP function in human cells did not support the notion that YAP might be a cancer causing gene because its overexpression actually promoted cell death rather than cell survival (like Yki in Drosophila). Nevertheless, due to the amplification of YAP in a mouse breast tumor, Overholtzer and colleagues decided to examine the functions of YAP in a 3D mammary culture model developed in Brugge's lab.

In this model, they grew cells in a 3-dimensional protein matrix rather than in 2-dimensions on plastic, which allows mammary cells to adopt an architecture in culture that is similar to what occurs in the human breast. They had previously uncovered the effects of other genes using this model that would be missed in more conventional 2D models.

Using these 3D cultures, the authors were able to show that the overexpression of YAP caused a dramatic change in cell behavior associated with invasion into the protein matrix. This type of invasive activity is normally associated with strong acting cancer-promoting genes. The authors were further able to show, in 3D cultures and other assays, that YAP overexpression both activated cell growth and inhibited cell death, just as one might have predicted from the studies of Yki in Drosophila.

Moreover, YAP overexpression was able to turn their non-cancerous mammary cells into cancer-like cells in the lab, as evidenced by the ability of YAP expressing cells to grow in soft agar, an assay that measures cancerous potential. Parallel to Overholtzer and colleague's work, the lab of Scott Lowe, PhD, of Cold Spring Harbor, also showed that YAP overexpression could contribute to the development of liver tumors in a mouse model (Cancer Cell, July 2006). Thus, it appears that YAP is indeed a newly identified cancer-causing gene.

"What we would like to understand next is how YAP is controlled by the Hpo-Sav-Wts pathway in human cells", says Overholtzer. "Also, although we found the YAP amplification in a mouse breast tumor, in human cancers this amplicon is actually much more common in other types such as lung, pancreatic, ovarian, and others. Thus it is possible that YAP plays an important role in the development of many different types of cancer."

Leah Gourley | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://hms.harvard.edu/
http://www.massgeneral.org

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Two Group A Streptococcus genes linked to 'flesh-eating' bacterial infections
25.09.2017 | University of Maryland

nachricht Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity
22.09.2017 | DFG-Forschungszentrum für Regenerative Therapien TU Dresden

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: LaserTAB: More efficient and precise contacts thanks to human-robot collaboration

At the productronica trade fair in Munich this November, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be presenting Laser-Based Tape-Automated Bonding, LaserTAB for short. The experts from Aachen will be demonstrating how new battery cells and power electronics can be micro-welded more efficiently and precisely than ever before thanks to new optics and robot support.

Fraunhofer ILT from Aachen relies on a clever combination of robotics and a laser scanner with new optics as well as process monitoring, which it has developed...

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Fraunhofer ISE Pushes World Record for Multicrystalline Silicon Solar Cells to 22.3 Percent

25.09.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Usher syndrome: Gene therapy restores hearing and balance

25.09.2017 | Health and Medicine

An international team of physicists a coherent amplification effect in laser excited dielectrics

25.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>