Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI), in collaboration with Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have found that a recently discovered gene plays an essential role in mediating apoptosis, or cell death, in colorectal cancer cells. The results are published in the Feb. 18 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The gene, PUMA, or p53 up-regulated modulator of apoptosis, is controlled by p53 – a tumor-suppressing gene that prevents normal cells from turning into life-threatening tumor cells. Previous research has determined that damage to p53 is fundamental to the development of a vast majority of cancers, and inactivation of the growth-controlling function of p53 is critical to the growth and spread of most cancers.
The leading investigators of the study, Lin Zhang, Ph.D., assistant professor of pharmacology, University of Pittsburgh and Jian Yu, Ph.D., assistant professor of pathology, University of Pittsburgh, performed several gene targeting experiments involving PUMA and found that if the gene is deleted in colorectal cancer cells, cell death is prevented. These findings build on previous findings published in 2001 in Molecular Cell, where the same research team identified PUMA as a novel gene that when expressed, resulted in rapid and profound apoptosis.
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