The finding has revealed an important mechanism controlling the growth of rapidly-dividing cells that may ultimately lead to the development of new treatments for diseases including cancer.
The discovery was made by Associate Professor Joan Heath, Dr Yeliz Boglev and colleagues at the Melbourne-Parkville Branch of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research. Dr Kate Hannan, Associate Professor Rick Pearson and Associate Professor Ross Hannon at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, also contributed to the work, which was published in the journal PLOS Genetics this month.
Associate Professor Heath, a Ludwig Institute Member who recently transferred her research group to the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, said the discovery was made while studying zebrafish embryos that harbour genetic mutations which prevent rapid cell growth during organ development. “Zebrafish embryos provide us with a great laboratory model for these studies because they are transparent, an attribute that allows us to track the growth of rapidly developing organs in live animals under a simple microscope. Moreover, the genes controlling growth and proliferation of developing tissues are essentially identical in zebrafish and humans, and are known to be frequently commandeered by cancer cells.”
“We discovered that a mutation in a relatively under-studied gene called pwp2h leads to the faulty assembly of ribosomes, the ‘protein factories’ of cells, and stops cells from dividing,” she said. “What was intriguing was that cells under stress from ribosome failure did not die. Instead, the cells switched on a survival mechanism called autophagy and began obtaining nutrients by digesting their own intracellular components.”
Ribosomes are large molecular machines in cells that manufacture proteins, and are critical for cell growth and division. Currently, there is great interest in developing therapeutics to block ribosome production, as a strategy to prevent cancer cells from dividing.
“Our research could have implications for this type of cancer treatment,” Associate Professor Heath said. “We showed that when ribosome assembly is disrupted, cells stop growing as desired, but to our surprise they enter a survival state. An anti-cancer treatment that inadvertently promotes the survival of cancer cells through autophagy is clearly not desirable. However, our findings in zebrafish show that if ribosome assembly is blocked and, at the same time, autophagy is inhibited, cells die rapidly. It is possible that a combination of inhibitors that block ribosome function and autophagy could provide an effective anti-cancer treatment,” she said.
Associate Professor Heath’s group is continuing its research at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, examining other genetic mutations in zebrafish that disrupt cell growth and division. “We are keen to enhance our approach by applying existing research technologies at the institute,” she said. “We have identified a number of cellular processes that rapidly dividing cells – including cancer cells – depend on, and the next stage is to test whether they could provide new targets for anti-cancer therapy.”
The research was supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council and the Victorian Government.
For further information
Ph: +61 3 9345 2971
Mob: +61 431 766 715
Vanessa Solomon | Source: EurekAlert!
Further information: www.wehi.edu.au
More articles from Life Sciences:
Estrogen: Not just produced by the ovaries
05.12.2013 | University of Wisconsin-Madison
Iranian biodiversity was underestimated, several new candidate species found
05.12.2013 | Stiftung Zoologisches Forschungsmuseum Alexander Koenig, Leibniz-Institut für Biodiversität der Tiere
The Light: Global study gets underway with online user survey
Light has a fundamental impact on our sense of well-being and performance. In cooperation with Zumtobel, a supplier of lighting solutions, Fraunhofer IAO has launched a global user survey of lighting quality in offices. The objective is to identify the best lighting conditions for a variety of spaces and lighting ...
Quantum entanglement, a perplexing phenomenon of quantum mechanics that Albert Einstein once referred to as “spooky action at a distance,” could be even spookier than Einstein perceived.
Physicists at the University of Washington and Stony Brook University in New York believe the phenomenon might be intrinsically linked with wormholes, hypothetical features of space-time that in popular science fiction can provide a much-faster-than-light shortcut from one part of the universe to another.
But here’s the catch: One couldn’t actually ...
A star is formed when a large cloud of gas and dust condenses and eventually becomes so dense that it collapses into a ball of gas, where the pressure heats the matter, creating a glowing gas ball – a star is born.
New research from the Niels Bohr Institute, among others, shows that a young, newly formed star in the Milky Way had such an explosive growth, that it was initially about 100 times brighter than it is now. The results are published in the scientific journal, Astrophysical Journal Letters.
The young ...
EPFL scientists have shown how to achieve a dramatic increase in the capacity of optical fibers; Their simple, innovative solution reduces the amount of space required between the pulses of light that transport data
Optical fibers carry data in the form of pulses of light over distances of thousands of miles at amazing speeds. They are one of the glories of modern telecommunications technology.
However, their capacity is limited, because the pulses of light need to be lined up one after the other in ...
NASA's Hurricane and Severe Storms Sentinel airborne mission known as HS3 wrapped up for the 2013 Atlantic Ocean hurricane season at the end of September, and had several highlights. HS3 will return to NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Va., for the 2014 Atlantic hurricane season.
During the 2013 mission, two unmanned Global Hawks flew from Wallops for the first time. The mission highlights included studying the Saharan Air Layer, following the genesis of a tropical storm, finding a unique hybrid core or center circulation in a redeveloped storm, obtaining measurements on the strongest side of ...
05.12.2013 | Health and Medicine
05.12.2013 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation
05.12.2013 | Information Technology
05.12.2013 | Event News
04.12.2013 | Event News
12.11.2013 | Event News