COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Researchers here have determined the three-dimensional structure of the protein produced by one of the most important human tumor-suppressor genes.
The gene is the p16 tumor-suppressor gene. The protein produced by this gene, the p16 protein, normally prevents cells from dividing when they shouldnt.
When this protein is missing or inactivated due to mutations in the p16 tumor-suppressor gene, cancer can occur. In fact, damage to the p16 protein is a factor in more than 70 different types of cancer.
The researchers have also produced computer-generated pictures of the protein.
This was a major achievement because of the importance of this protein in cancer and because of the difficulty of the project, said Ming-Daw Tsai, the researcher at Ohio State Universitys Comprehensive Cancer Center who led the study.
If we can develop a drug that mimics p16, that would be a potentially good approach for the treatment of cancer, which is the ultimate goal of work like this.
Determining the structure of the protein is the first major step in developing such a drug, said Tsai, a professor of chemistry and of biochemistry.
The study, conducted by Tsai and a team of Ohio State researchers, was published in a February issue of the journal Molecular Cell. They used nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy to measure the location of the atoms within the protein and their distances from one another. This information was then fed into a computer to determine the molecules structure.
NMR spectroscopy uses a powerful magnetic field to make molecular measurements. The method enables the researchers to study the structure of the p16 protein in a water solution, which more closely represents the molecules structure as it would exist inside the cell.