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: Dead feeder cells support stem cell growth

More information: Citation: DOI:10.1021/ja104591m

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Dead feeder cells support stem cell growth

Apr 24, 2015

Stem cells naturally cling to feeder cells as they grow in petri dishes. Scientists have thought for years that this attachment occurs because feeder cells serve as a support system, providing stems cells ...

Improving accuracy in genome editing

Apr 23, 2015

Imagine a day when scientists are able to alter the DNA of organisms in the lab in the search for answers to a host of questions. Or imagine a day when doctors treat genetic disorders by administering drugs ...

Drug research enhanced by fragment screening libraries

Apr 22, 2015

Generation of fragment screening libraries could enhance the analysis and application of natural products for medicinal chemistry and drug discovery, according to Griffith University's Professor Ronald Quinn.

Decoding the cell's genetic filing system

Apr 22, 2015

A fully extended strand of human DNA measures about five feet in length. Yet it occupies a space just one-tenth of a cell by wrapping itself around histones—spool-like proteins—to form a dense hub of ...

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.