Some brain tumors mimic genetic program of germline cells

Dec 23, 2010

Spanish scientists at IRB Barcelona have discovered that some brain tumours in larvae of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster use the genetic programme of germline cells to grow. The removal of some of these genes leads to healthy brains. This finding demonstrates that these genes are crucial for tumour development. The study, headed by ICREA researcher Cayetano Gonzalez, is published today in the prestigious journal Science.

One of the characteristics of tumour cells is their immortality, a property that allows them to divide without obeying external signals. As a result, tissue masses form, which, in most cases, interfere with organ functions. Data collected in recent years reveal than many human tumours activate specific of the germinal cell line – those specialized in spermatozoids or ovules -, which is thought to allow them greater and longer viability. However, the role of these genes in tumour development remains to be established. In this study, the scientists showed for the first time that silencing some of these genes leads to the disappearance of tumours in the brain of the fruit fly.

Not all cells use the same genes, but they make use of them depending on the function to be performed. This gene activation profile is what determines how cells divide and what they become specialized in, in the case they have not already done so. In this study the researchers have used DNA chip technology to monitor this gene activity in tumour cells and have compared it with healthy cells. For this purpose, they have analysed brain tumours induced by an alteration in the gene l(3)mbt in fruit fly .

Analysis of the gene expression profiles indicates that these activate a total of 102 genes that are not activated in healthy cells. When the researchers examined the functions of these genes they observed that, in many cases, they were unknown, although 25% of them were responsible for functions related to germline cells. "These results show that these tumours mimic the gene expression profiles of germline cells", explains Ana Janic, first author of the study and PhD student in González's lab.

When the scientists studied the possible role of these specific genes of the germinal cell line in tumour expansion, they observed that by the silencing four lead to the development of healthy brains. "These experiments demonstrate that these genes are crucial for the development of this kind of tumour", states Janic.

Data collected over the last ten years indicate that the cancer of some tumours, such as melanomas and some kinds of carcinoma, activate genes of the germinal cell line. One possible diagnostic approach derived from these studies would be to use some of the proteins produced by these genes as tumour cell markers. In this context, the use of these proteins to make cancer vaccines is of particular relevance. This study sheds new light on the role of these proteins in the pathogenesis of cancer and opens up the way for new lines of research for the development of treatment against this disease in humans.

Explore further: Solving cancer's secrets

More information: Ectopic expression of germline genes drives malignant brain tumor growth in Drosophila. Janic A, Mendizabal L, Llamazares S, Rossell D, Gonzalez C. Science (2010) doi:10.1126/science.1195481

Provided by Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona)

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Genes associated with aggressive breast cancer

Aug 16, 2010

Researchers at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have for the first time identified 12 genes that could be associated with aggressive breast tumours. The discovery could result in more reliable prognoses and better treatment ...

Recommended for you

Solving cancer's secrets

2 hours ago

Some fathers play ball with their sons. Or take them fishing. Chuck Perou's father took his son to his pathology lab to show him how a pathologist conducts tests and runs experiments. Perou, a nature junky ...

Cancer stem cells linked to drug resistance

22 hours ago

Most drugs used to treat lung, breast and pancreatic cancers also promote drug-resistance and ultimately spur tumor growth. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have discovered ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Teachers' scare tactics may lead to lower exam scores

As the school year winds down and final exams loom, teachers may want to avoid reminding students of the bad consequences of failing a test because doing so could lead to lower scores, according to new research published ...