Enzyme can steer cells or possibly stop them in their tracks

March 18, 2011

Researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have discovered that members of an enzyme family found in humans and throughout the plant and animal kingdoms play a crucial role in regulating cell motility. Their findings suggest an entirely new strategy for treating conditions ranging from diabetic ulcers to metastatic cancer.

David Sharp, Ph.D., associate professor of physiology & biophysics, was the senior author of the study, which was published in the March 6 online edition of Nature Cell Biology.

" in our bodies are in constant motion, migrating from their birth sites to distant targets," said Dr. Sharp. "Cellular movement builds our tissues and organs and underlies key functions such as the immune response and wound healing. But uncontrolled cell migration can lead to devastating problems including mental retardation, vascular disease and metastatic cancer."

Dr. Sharp and his colleagues found that certain members of an family known as katanin concentrate at the outer edge of non-dividing cells where they break up microtubules – dynamic intracellular polymers that regulate cell movement by controlling the formation of protrusions called lamellipodia. (Polymers are large molecules composed of many repeating units.)

When Dr. Sharp's team treated motile cells of the fruit fly Drosophila with a drug that inhibited katanin production, the treated cells moved significantly faster than control cells and with a striking increase in high-velocity movements, indicating that katanin prevents cells from moving too rapidly or in an uncontrolled manner. The researchers observed similar effects with katanin when they examined human cells.

"Our study opens up a new avenue for developing therapeutic agents for treating wounds – burns and diabetic ulcers, for example – as well as metastatic disease," added Dr. Sharp.

Describing katanin as a "microtubule regulator," Dr. Sharp said that its ability to modulate the speed and direction of cell movement – and not just control whether or not it occurs – could be especially useful from a clinical standpoint. Drugs that inhibit katanin, for example, could encourage cells to migrate in a particular direction to heal wounds. Conversely, he said, katanin itself or drugs that stimulate its production might be useful in treating or preventing metastasis.

Explore further: Cancer cells enlist adult stem cells to promote metastasis

More information: The title of the paper is "Drosophila katanin is a microtubule depolymerase that regulates cortical-microtubule plus-end interactions and cell migration."

Related Stories

Cancer cells enlist adult stem cells to promote metastasis

November 7, 2007

Everyone knows that tumors are packed with cancer cells, but many normal cells live among these deviants. The normal cells form a structural framework called the stroma, which was once thought to resemble passive scaffolding. ...

Understanding the migration of cancer cells

June 23, 2008

[B]Activity of regulatory proteins for the growth of filopodia and lamelopodia clarified[/B] Lamellipodia are veil-shaped protrusions of the plasma membrane, that can turn into upward-curled ruffles if they fail to adhere ...

Key mechanism identified in metastatic breast cancer

May 4, 2010

Scientists at the University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center have identified a key molecular mechanism in breast cancer that enables tumor cells to spread to adjacent or distant parts of the body in a process called metastasis. ...

Scientists watch cell-shape process for first time

October 10, 2010

Researchers at the Carnegie Institution for Science, with colleagues at the Nara Institute of Science and Technology, observed for the first time a fundamental process of cellular organization in living plant cells: the birth ...

Recommended for you

A common mechanism for human and bird sound production

November 27, 2015

When birds and humans sing it sounds completely different, but now new research reported in the journal Nature Communications shows that the very same physical mechanisms are at play when a bird sings and a human speaks.

Study suggests fish can experience 'emotional fever'

November 25, 2015

(Phys.org)—A small team of researchers from the U.K. and Spain has found via lab study that at least one type of fish is capable of experiencing 'emotional fever,' which suggests it may qualify as a sentient being. In their ...


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.