Finally, in a demonstration of ROC1's importance to cell survival, the research team removed the gene from yeast cells, and the cell then died. "So in yeast, if you remove ROC1, the cell dies because it lost its ability to biochemically label a number of substrate proteins with ubiquitin. If this doesn't take place, proteins accumulate and kill the cells," Xiong says.
And when the researchers inserted human ROC1 (or ROC2) into yeast cells devoid of their only ROC gene, the cells were rescued from death. "This tells you how conserved the gene is, how functionally important it really is," Xiong says.
Xiong is this year's recipient of the American Association of Cancer Research's Gertrude B. Elion Award, which is presented annually to non-tenured scientists engaged in cancer causative, preventive, and/or treatment research.