Sticky synthetic molecules aid fight against prostate cancer

Aug 26, 2010
The ARM-P molecule attaches at one end to antibodies already present in the bloodstream, and at the other to the PSMA protein on the prostate cancer cell. (Credit: David Spiegel)

(PhysOrg.com) -- A team led by Yale University researchers has discovered a previously unknown binding site on a protein found on prostate cancer cells that can enhance their efforts to tag the cells for destruction.

The new site improves the ability of synthetic molecules, recently developed by the team, to attach to cells, with the ultimate goal of enhancing the body's immune response to the disease. Their findings appear online in the .

The new study builds on the team's recent development of a new class of , called "antibody-recruiting molecules targeting prostate cancer" (ARM-Ps), which work by binding simultaneously to antibodies already present in the and to a protein found on prostate cancer cells called prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA). By coating the cancer cells in antibodies, the ARM-P molecules flag them as a threat and trigger the body's own , which does not recognize the cancer cells as foreign pathogens on its own.

While the researchers were developing different derivatives of the ARM-P molecules, they found that the molecule's length affected how strongly it bonded to the cancer cells. "We were surprised to find a ‘magic length' that maximized the affinity for the ARM-P molecules to bind to the prostate cancer cells," said David Spiegel, M.D., assistant professor of chemistry and lead author of the paper.

Spiegel and his colleagues realized that the ARM-P molecules, which were designed to bind to a single PSMA site, must have been binding to another site on the protein as well. Using advanced imaging techniques along with computational modeling, the team analyzed the previously unknown binding site and discovered that it is created by a single amino acid: tryptophan (the same chemical found in turkey that causes drowsiness).

"We're quite intrigued by the simplicity of this binding site and the possibility that similar binding sites could be common in other proteins," Spiegel said.

In the meantime, Spiegel and his team will work to exploit the new binding site on the PSMA protein to improve the binding between the ARM-P molecules and . Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death among American men, with one out of every six American men expected to develop the disease.

Explore further: Structure of sodium channels different than previously believed

More information: Citation: DOI:10.1021/ja104591m

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Breakthrough points to new drugs from nature

Apr 16, 2014

Researchers at Griffith University's Eskitis Institute have developed a new technique for discovering natural compounds which could form the basis of novel therapeutic drugs.

World's first successful visualisation of key coenzyme

Apr 16, 2014

Japanese researchers have successfully developed the world's first imaging method for visualising the behaviour of nicotine-adenine dinucleotide derivative (NAD(P)H), a key coenzyme, inside cells. This feat ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...