Tumor-suppressor proteins work to inhibit tumor growth in our bodies and when they win, they spare us a battle with cancer. But one such protein, menin, appears to have a split personality. Though menin is well-known for its ability to suppress endocrine tumors, researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine have discovered that it is also a key player in the development of some forms of acute leukemia.
The researchers, who made the discovery in working with mouse cells, say this is the first time a tumor-suppressor protein has been found to have such a dramatic dual role. But there may be a silver lining in menins dark side - understanding the mechanism could open up new avenues of treatment for the very leukemias that menin promotes.
Normally menin binds with another protein, known as MLL, in the nucleus of a cell, where the two are part of a complex of proteins that promote proper cell growth. But when MLL is mutated, it becomes a cancer-promoting oncoprotein. Usually this would put the tumor suppressor and the oncoprotein in direct conflict, as each sought to overwhelm the other, but not so in cases of acute leukemia. "Weve discovered a situation where theyre not antagonizing each others actions, theyre actually working together," said Michael Cleary, MD, professor of pathology and of pediatrics and senior author of the paper published in the Oct. 21 issue of Cell.
Louis Bergeron | EurekAlert!
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