Newly discovered gene plays vital role in cancer

Feb 27, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Gene p53 protects against cancer and is usually described as the most important gene in cancer research. However, scientists at the Swedish medical university Karolinska Institutet have now shown that a previously unknown gene, Wrap53, controls the activity of p53. As the regulation mechanism is relatively unexplored, the study opens up new routes to solving the mystery of cancer.

The p53 gene makes sure that cells with damaged DNA either repair themselves or commit suicide. If p53 itself is damaged, which is the case in roughly half of all cancer tumours, cells that are on their way to becoming cancerous are allowed to survive. Much cancer research revolves around the cell processes that p53 induces.

A group of researchers at Karolinska Institutet have now identified a new gene, called Wrap53, that regulates the activity of p53. The study, which is published in the journal Molecular Cell, demonstrates that Wrap53 gives rise to a molecule, called antisense RNA, the presence of which is necessary for the production of sufficient quantities of p53 protein in the event of DNA damage.

According to Marianne Farnebo, one of the scientists involved in the study, the results indicate that damage to Wrap53 can indirectly cause cancer. Wrap53 is therefore a new potential target for future cancer therapies.

"Mutations in the p53 gene contribute to about half of all cancer cases," she says. "In the remaining half, p53 is probably inactivated in other ways, such as damage to Wrap53 knocking out the production of the p53 protein."

The study is also one of the first to show how antisense RNA regulates genes in the human body. It is already a well-known fact that genes often control each other through the influence of their end products - usually proteins - on gene expression. With antisense regulation, control is effected instead through the production of mutually stabilising or destructive RNA molecules by genes with overlapping sequences, which determines whether or not the RNA molecules form proteins.

"At least 20 per cent of all genes can be regulated by antisense RNA, making it a potentially very common control mechanism," says Dr Farnebo. "But it's been difficult to show that antisense RNA really does serve important functions in the body, as we've managed to do in this study."

More information: "Wrap53, a natural p53 antisense transcript required for p53 induction upon DNA damage", Salah Mahmoudi, Sofia Henriksson, Martin Corcoran, Cristina Méndez-Vidal, Klas G. Wiman & Marianne Farnebo, Molecular Cell, 27 February 2009.

Source: Karolinska Institutet

Explore further: Physical exercise helps women with breast cancer to better tolerate chemotherapy

Related Stories

Ears, grips and fists take on mobile phone user ID

5 hours ago

A research project has been under way to explore a biometric authentication system dubbed Bodyprint, with interesting test results. Bodyprint has been designed to detect users' biometric features using the ...

More than 2,200 confirmed dead in Nepal earthquake

5 hours ago

A powerful aftershock shook Nepal on Sunday, making buildings sway and sending panicked Kathmandu residents running into the streets a day after a massive earthquake left more than 2,200 people dead.

Magnitude 6.7 aftershock hits Nepal, causes panic

6 hours ago

A powerful aftershock shook Nepal on Sunday, making buildings sway and sending panicked Kathmandu residents running into the streets a day after a massive earthquake left at least 1,900 people dead.

Nepal quake: Nearly 1,400 dead, Everest shaken (Update)

16 hours ago

Tens of thousands of people were spending the night in the open under a chilly and thunderous sky after a powerful earthquake devastated Nepal on Saturday, killing nearly 1,400, collapsing modern houses and ...

Russian hackers read Obama emails, report says

16 hours ago

Emails to and from President Barack Obama were read by Russian hackers last year in a breach of the White House's unclassified computer system, The New York Times said Saturday.

Recommended for you

'Chemo brain' is real, say researchers

6 hours ago

UBC research shows that chemotherapy can lead to excessive mind wandering and an inability to concentrate. Dubbed 'chemo-brain,' the negative cognitive effects of the cancer treatment have long been suspected, ...

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.