Finding a target for tumor suppression

BYU biochemistry professor Barry Willardson

One of the hopes for victory against cancer hinges on naturally-occurring proteins whose job is to make their host cell die.

Since their natural role is to stop unhealthy cell proliferation, the idea is that one or more of these proteins could be harnessed to stop the growth of tumors.

Brigham Young University scientists recently stumbled onto one potential tumor suppressor with an especially ominous name: Programmed Cell Death Protein 5 (aka PDCD5). What they found opens a new avenue for cancer researchers; in fact, the Journal of Biological Chemistry recognizes the work as their research paper of the week.

Programmed cell death and serendipity

It's tricky to find how and where potential tumor-suppressing proteins do their work inside live cells. Although other labs actively hunted for PDCD5's cellular workplace, the researchers who actually found it weren't looking for it at all.

BYU chemist Barry Willardson and his team study totally different proteins called , which help other proteins to fold into their proper shape.

But proteins are like teenagers in a sense: You can learn a lot by noticing who they hang out with. So the Willardson group went in search of the chaperone's buddies.

Willardson with Ph.D student Chris Tracy, a co-author on the study

"It's a great type of experiment because it tells you things that you may not have considered," Willardson said.

So when they spotted PDCD5 hooking up with their protein, they wondered if its tumor suppressor ability was linked to the chaperone.

To get a closer look at the pairing, the BYU team collaborated with scientists in Madrid who operate a cryo-electron microscope in Spain's National Center of Biotechnology. Their images showed how the mysterious Programmed Cell Death Protein 5 could block the production of tubulin, the material that cells use as scaffolding during cell division.

What this means for cancer research

Hundreds of proteins have been targeted for their potential to suppress tumors. This study identifies how one of those proteins may keep the growth of healthy cells in check.

"We've provided information on how this functions, and it needs to remain functional to be a ," Willardson said. "It really is just a first step, but it gives us a direction we want to follow."

More information: www.jbc.org/content/early/2013… bc.M113.542159.short

Related Stories

Protein folding becomes cancer treatment target

Dec 03, 2013

(Medical Xpress)—A molecule that helps cancer cells to keep dividing could be a promising target for new treatments, according to research published in the journal Oncogene.

Small molecule shows promise as anti-cancer therapy

Jan 13, 2014

Johns Hopkins scientists say a previously known but little studied chemical compound targets and shuts down a common cancer process. In studies of laboratory-grown human tumor cell lines, the drug disrupted tumor cell division ...

Recommended for you

Immune checkpoint inhibitors may work in brain cancers

Nov 21, 2014

New evidence that immune checkpoint inhibitors may work in glioblastoma and brain metastases was presented today by Dr Anna Sophie Berghoff at the ESMO Symposium on Immuno-Oncology 2014 in Geneva, Switzerland.

New model of follow up for breast cancer patients

Nov 21, 2014

Public health researchers from the University of Adelaide have evaluated international breast cancer guidelines, finding that there is potential to improve surveillance of breast cancer survivors from both a patient and health ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.