Cell 'glue' opens new pathways to understanding cancer

Mar 11, 2011

Australian researchers have found a novel way in which the proteins that 'glue' cells together to form healthy tissues can come unstuck, opening new avenues to understanding how these proteins are disturbed in diseases such as cancer.

Professor Alpha Yap and Sabine Mangold from UQ's Institute for Molecular Bioscience have been studying how stick together and the diseases that occur when cells detach when they shouldn't. In particular, the progression of tumours to advanced stages commonly occurs when cells separate from their tissue of origin.

“We examined a called HGF that is often found in cancer,” Ms Mangold said.

“HGF regulates cell growth, shape and movement and aids in migrating to other tissues and spreading through the body.

“Scientists have long known that HGF disrupts the junctions where cells join together, but the exact mechanism of how this occurs hasn't been understood until now.”

The team made by their discovery by examining the molecular machinery that binds cells. One key component is a protein called E-cadherin, which forms the adhesive to hold cells together.

E-cadherin associates with a scaffold found inside the cells, made of a protein called actin. Normally, actin links into a meshwork with cadherin to make strong contacts between cells.

Ms Mangold and Professor Yap found that the actin scaffolding seemed to be lost just as the cell contacts became disrupted. They discovered this occurred because HGF caused another protein, Myosin VI – which normally acts to link cadherin and actin together – to be lost from cadherin.

“So HGF was causing this interlinked meshwork of proteins to come apart, breaking up the system and causing cells to drift apart,” Professor Yap said.

“The discovery of this pathway may open new avenues to understand exactly how proteins that bind cells together are affected in disease, which could lead to new targets for treatments of such disease, including cancer.”

The study was published in the latest edition of the international journal Current Biology.

Explore further: Genomes of malaria-carrying mosquitoes sequenced

Related Stories

Cells' grouping tactic points to new cancer treatments

Jul 19, 2010

The study, which used embryonic cells, points to a new way of treating cancer where therapy is targeted at the process of cancer cells grouping together. The aim is to stop cancer cells from spreading and ...

Discovery of a mechanism that regulates cell movement

Jul 20, 2008

A study performed by researchers at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona), in collaboration with researchers at the Instituto de Biología Molecular of the CSIC, reveal a mechanism that controls the movement ...

Recommended for you

Genomes of malaria-carrying mosquitoes sequenced

18 hours ago

Nora Besansky, O'Hara Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Notre Dame and a member of the University's Eck Institute for Global Health, has led an international team of scientists in sequencing ...

How calcium regulates mitochondrial carrier proteins

Nov 26, 2014

Mitochondrial carriers are a family of proteins that play the key role of transporting a chemically diverse range of molecules across the inner mitochondrial membrane. Mitochondrial aspartate/glutamate carriers are part of ...

Team conducts unprecedented analysis of microbial ecosystem

Nov 26, 2014

An international team of scientists from the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and The Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) have completed a first-of-its-kind microbial analysis of a biological ...

Students create microbe to weaken superbug

Nov 25, 2014

A team of undergraduate students from the University of Waterloo have designed a synthetic organism that may one day help doctors treat MRSA, an antibiotic-resistant superbug.

User comments : 0

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.