Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Enzyme complex thought to promote cancer development can also help prevent it

14.10.2005


In a case of basic science detective work, researchers at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center have solved the puzzle of the "inconsistent biomarker" and, in the process, may have discovered an agent that can suppress cancer development.



In the Oct. 14 issue of Science, researchers report that the biomarker in question - an enzyme known as EZH2 - leads a duplicitous life. In its "native" state, the enzyme acts as a suppressor for cancer cell growth that works to inhibit cancer development. But when it is phosphorylated (when a phosphate group is added to the molecule), it turns vicious and acts to promote oncogenesis.

The researchers found the two forms of EZH2 after they identified the "switch" that leads to its phosphorylation - the well-known culprit Akt, an enzyme that has already been associated with cancer development.


The findings explain not only why high levels of EZH2 (when bound to its partner proteins, such as EED) have been shown to identify people who have an aggressive, metastatic form of breast or prostate cancer, but also why elevated levels of EED appear to offer protective effects against virulent lymphoma.

"This has become a big riddle to cancer researchers who want to be able to use EZH2 as a marker upon which to base aggressive treatment," says the study’s lead author, Mien-Chie Hung, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Oncology. "We now know there are two different forms of EZH2. The phosphorylated one enhances oncogenesis, whereas the nonphosphorylated EZH2 works to inhibit cell growth."

Their findings are important for a number of different reasons, says Hung.

The first is that phosphorylated EZH2 may provide a much better "biomarker" of aggressive cancer than "total" EZH2 (the sum of both kinds of EZH2 that has been measured in previous biomarker studies) since it is the one with oncogenic properties and appears to help cancer cells invade nearby tissue, he says. "We need more study to determine this, but my prediction is that this form may be a better marker because it enhances the growth of cancer cells and tumors," he says.

The second is that the researchers developed a "mutant" protein that stops EZH2 from being phosphorylated, and they say this molecule might provide the basis for either a small-molecule drug or a gene therapy treatment, Hung says. Indeed, in their study, the research team used the agent to reduce tumor growth in a mouse model of human breast cancer. "We believe that identifying small molecules that could switch between the phosphorylated and nonphosphorylated EZH2 form may provide a screening strategy for cancer treatment," he says.

Finally, the study demonstrates the power of researching what is known as "epigenetics" molecular mechanisms in cancer - the notion that genes and their protein products do not have to be mutated for the disease to develop. In this field of study, researchers look at how beneficial genes/proteins may be silenced by molecules that help handle DNA.

For example, one area of active investigation is the power that histones exert on gene expression. Histones are nature’s way of physically controlling unwieldy "naked" DNA by compacting it. But scientists now know that histones themselves can be modified by phosphorylation, as well as through another process known as methylation, in which one atom on a biological molecule is replaced by a different set of chemicals. Histone methylation, in particular, is now regarded as a strong modifier of genetic activity, and can work to either activate or silence gene expression.

The M. D. Anderson researchers conclude that Akt regulates the ability of EZH2 to silence genes that are needed to protect against cancer development. When Akt is activated, it phosphorylates EZH2, making it break free from a particular histone known as H3. If it is not bound to H3, EZH2 cannot methylate H3, thus these silenced genes (which are believed to be oncogenes) are re-expressed. If Akt is not activated, it does not phosphorylate EZH2, and this enzyme remains bound to and methylates H3, allowing it to silence gene expression.

"Our results imply that Akt regulates the methylation activity through phosphorylation of EZH2, which may contribute to oncogenesis," Hung says.

Nancy Jensen | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.mdanderson.org

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht During HIV infection, antibody can block B cells from fighting pathogens
14.08.2018 | NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

nachricht First study on physical properties of giant cancer cells may inform new treatments
14.08.2018 | Brown University

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 interactive machine learning tool makes car designs more aerodynamic

Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.

When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...

Im Focus: Robots as 'pump attendants': TU Graz develops robot-controlled rapid charging system for e-vehicles

Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.

Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....

Im Focus: The “TRiC” to folding actin

Proteins must be folded correctly to fulfill their molecular functions in cells. Molecular assistants called chaperones help proteins exploit their inbuilt folding potential and reach the correct three-dimensional structure. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have demonstrated that actin, the most abundant protein in higher developed cells, does not have the inbuilt potential to fold and instead requires special assistance to fold into its active state. The chaperone TRiC uses a previously undescribed mechanism to perform actin folding. The study was recently published in the journal Cell.

Actin is the most abundant protein in highly developed cells and has diverse functions in processes like cell stabilization, cell division and muscle...

Im Focus: Lining up surprising behaviors of superconductor with one of the world's strongest magnets

Scientists have discovered that the electrical resistance of a copper-oxide compound depends on the magnetic field in a very unusual way -- a finding that could help direct the search for materials that can perfectly conduct electricity at room temperatur

What happens when really powerful magnets--capable of producing magnetic fields nearly two million times stronger than Earth's--are applied to materials that...

Im Focus: World record: Fastest 3-D tomographic images at BESSY II

The quality of materials often depends on the manufacturing process. In casting and welding, for example, the rate at which melts solidify and the resulting microstructure of the alloy is important. With metallic foams as well, it depends on exactly how the foaming process takes place. To understand these processes fully requires fast sensing capability. The fastest 3D tomographic images to date have now been achieved at the BESSY II X-ray source operated by the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin.

Dr. Francisco Garcia-Moreno and his team have designed a turntable that rotates ultra-stably about its axis at a constant rotational speed. This really depends...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Within reach of the Universe

08.08.2018 | Event News

A journey through the history of microscopy – new exhibition opens at the MDC

27.07.2018 | Event News

2018 Work Research Conference

25.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

'Building up' stretchable electronics to be as multipurpose as your smartphone

14.08.2018 | Information Technology

During HIV infection, antibody can block B cells from fighting pathogens

14.08.2018 | Life Sciences

First study on physical properties of giant cancer cells may inform new treatments

14.08.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>