Newly discovered kinase regulates cytoskeleton, and perhaps holds key to how cancer cells spread

May 31, 2010

Scientists at the University of California, San Diego have identified a previously unknown kinase that regulates cell proliferation, shape and migration, and may play a major role in the progression or metastasis of cancer cells.

The research will be published in the May 31 online Early Edition of the .

Richard L. Klemke, PhD, professor of pathology at the UCSD School of Medicine and the Moores Cancer Center, and colleagues say the new kinase or enzyme regulates the cytoskeleton - the internal framework of tiny filaments and microtubules in cells that gives them shape, coherence and the ability to move.

"This molecule may be an important new target for future anticancer therapies and a clinical biomarker that predicts whether a cancer is likely to spread," said Klemke.

Proper regulation of the cytoskeleton is important to many fundamental , including axon/dendrite formation, migration, differentiation and proliferation. Conversely, deregulation of the can contribute to a variety of human diseases, including or the spread of tumors to other parts of the body.

The new kinase - called pseudopodium-enriched atypical kinase one or PEAK1 - plays a central role in the formation of cellular pseudopodia. Greek for "false foot," a pseudopodium is a highly specialized structure that protrudes from the surface of migrating cells. It attaches the leading, extending membrane of the cell to its underlying substrate, and then helps pull the cell forward. By endlessly repeating this process, a cell is able to move in a productive manner.

" capitalize on their innate ability to move in this fashion when they metastasize," said Jonathan A. Kelber, PhD, leading author on the paper and postdoctoral fellow in Klemke's lab. "Cancer cells detach from the primary tumor, invade the extracellular milieu and then enter the from which they can spread and seed new tumors in distant tissues."

Discovering PEAK1 provides researchers with a new player to study and investigate, one that may have significant influence in the biology of cells, particularly cancer cells. Evidence from mouse studies suggests PEAK1 is an important player during tumor growth, and Klemke's team has further demonstrated that PEAK1 levels are increased in primary and metastatic samples from human colon cancer patients. Whether PEAK1 is capable of transforming non-tumor cells into cancer cells remains to be determined.

"One exciting fact is that PEAK1 has kinase activity, which suggests you can design a small molecule drug that would specifically inhibit its activity," said Kelber. "But that work lies in the future. First, we need to fully identify the role of its kinase domain in tumor progression."

Explore further: US OKs first-ever DNA alternative to Pap smear (Update 2)

Related Stories

How to steer a moving cell

May 07, 2007

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine have developed new technology which, combined with proteomics – the large-scale study of the structure and function of proteins and their ...

Potential new therapeutic molecular target to fight cancer

Nov 01, 2007

Researchers at the Virginia Commonwealth University Massey Cancer Center have identified the enzyme sphingosine kinase 2 as a possible new therapeutic target to improve the efficacy of chemotherapy for colon and breast cancer.

Boost for new cancer therapies

Dec 14, 2006

Scientists have revealed the critical role a key enzyme plays in helping cells divide in what could prove an important breakthrough for new cancer therapies.

Recommended for you

US OKs first-ever DNA alternative to Pap smear (Update 2)

6 hours ago

U.S. government health regulators have cleared a genetic test from Roche as a first-choice screening option for cervical cancer. It was a role previously reserved for the Pap smear, the decades-old mainstay of women's health.

New breast cancer imaging method promising

12 hours ago

The new PAMmography method for imaging breast cancer developed by the University of Twente's MIRA research institute and the Medisch Spectrum Twente hospital appears to be a promising new method that could ...

Palliation is rarely a topic in studies on advanced cancer

13 hours ago

End-of-life aspects, the corresponding terminology, and the relevance of palliation in advanced cancer are often not considered in publications on randomized controlled trials (RCTs). This is the result of an analysis by ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Genetic code of the deadly tsetse fly unraveled

Mining the genome of the disease-transmitting tsetse fly, researchers have revealed the genetic adaptions that allow it to have such unique biology and transmit disease to both humans and animals.