Protein identified as enemy of vital tumor suppressor PTEN

May 03, 2011

A protein known as WWP2 appears to play a key role in tumor survival, a research team headed by a scientist at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center reports in an advance online publication of Nature Cell Biology.

Their research suggests that the little-studied protein binds to the tumor-suppressing protein PTEN (phosphatase and tensin homologue deleted on chromosome 10), marking it for destruction by proteasomes, which degrade proteins and recycle their components.

PTEN plays a role regulating the cellular reproduction cycle and prevents rapid cell growth, a hallmark of . Its gene is mutated or deleted in many types of cancer, the researchers noted.

The WWP2 (atrophin-1 interacting protein 2) protein was discovered in the laboratory of Junjie Chen, Ph.D., professor and chair in MD Anderson's Department of Experimental Radiation Oncology and senior author of the paper.

"We were trying to find regulators of PTEN when we isolated the protein WWP2 as a putative PTEN-associated protein," Chen said. He noted that WWP2 caught the researchers' attention because it is similar to the NEDD4-1 protein, which has been proposed as a regulator of PTEN function.

First suspect doesn't affect PTEN

WWP2 is an E3 ubiquitin ligase in the NEDD4-like protein family. Ubiquitins attach to other proteins, labeling them for degradation by proteasomes. NEDD4-like proteins play important roles regulating , , cellular transport and activation of .

"But when NEDD4-1 is deleted in mice, researchers have not seen a clear change in PTEN ," Chen noted. "These findings suggest that there may be other PTEN regulators.

"Because WWP2 is part of the NEDD4-like family, we decided to take a look at it to see if it's the real regulator of PTEN," Chen continued. "When you knock down WWP2, you see an increase in PTEN level, whereas with WWP2 overexpression you can see a decrease in PTEN. This finding indicates that WWP2 may be involved in PTEN's regulation."

Overall, the study results suggest that WWP2 can regulate PTEN stability, Chen said.

Possibly a cancer-driving gene

The team uncovered evidence that WWP2 is a potential oncogene - a driver in tumor formation and growth. In one experiment, mice with normal WWP2 developed prostate cancer tumors after nine weeks that were more than three times the size of tumors in mice with WWP2 silenced.

Chen noted that more research is needed to determine whether WWP2 is functionally important in tumors or in tumor formation. "We need to look at real tumor samples to determine whether tumors with reduced PTEN expression could result from the overexpression of WWP2."

He added that some early studies suggest that WWP2 may operate in tumors, but a correlation between WWP2 overexpression and PTEN downregulation in tumors has not been established.

Explore further: Fighting bacteria—with viruses

Related Stories

Gene helps protect tumor suppressor in breast cancer

Apr 06, 2009

Scientists at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center have discovered a gene that protects PTEN, a major tumor-suppressor that is reduced but rarely mutated in about half of all breast cancers.

Preventing prostate cancer the complex way

Feb 03, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Blocking a specific protein complex prevents the formation of tumors in mice genetically predisposed to develop prostate cancer, researchers at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research ...

Scientists pull protein's tail to curtail cancer

Dec 31, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- When researchers look inside human cancer cells for the whereabouts of an important tumor-suppressor, they often catch the protein playing hooky, lolling around in cellular broth instead of muscling its way ...

Study Shows How Normal Cells Influence Tumor Growth

Oct 21, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- It was once thought that the two communities of cells within a cancerous breast tumor - fast-growing malignant cells and the normal cells that surround them - existed independently, without interaction. Then ...

Recommended for you

Fighting bacteria—with viruses

Jul 24, 2014

Research published today in PLOS Pathogens reveals how viruses called bacteriophages destroy the bacterium Clostridium difficile (C. diff), which is becoming a serious problem in hospitals and healthcare institutes, due to its re ...

Atomic structure of key muscle component revealed

Jul 24, 2014

Actin is the most abundant protein in the body, and when you look more closely at its fundamental role in life, it's easy to see why. It is the basis of most movement in the body, and all cells and components ...

Brand new technology detects probiotic organisms in food

Jul 23, 2014

In the food industr, ity is very important to ensure the quality and safety of products consumed by the population to improve their properties and reduce foodborne illness. Therefore, a team of Mexican researchers ...

Protein evolution follows a modular principle

Jul 23, 2014

Proteins impart shape and stability to cells, drive metabolic processes and transmit signals. To perform these manifold tasks, they fold into complex three-dimensional shapes. Scientists at the Max Planck ...

Report on viruses looks beyond disease

Jul 22, 2014

In contrast to their negative reputation as disease causing agents, some viruses can perform crucial biological and evolutionary functions that help to shape the world we live in today, according to a new report by the American ...

User comments : 0