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Protein involved in cell division now found key to cell growth

HOUSTON -- A research team at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center has found that a single protein known as ARF helps coordinate both growth and division within a cell -- the functions that are often perturbed in cancer development.

Many proteins have been found in cancer research that are associated with either errant cell division or with uncontrolled growth, but ARF is the first "master molecule" that seems to be involved in both crucial aspects of the cell cycle, say the researchers, who published their discovery in the November issue of the journal, Molecular Cell.

The work helps explain why so many human cancers -- more than 40 percent -- are found to have altered ARF proteins, says the study's lead author, Yanping Zhang, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Oncology.

The picture of molecular cell processes now painted by the investigators also suggests that drugs might be developed that could mimic normal ARF function, he says.

"In cancer, cells need to grow first, and then divide, and we have found the first protein that can, in a coordinated fashion, put the brakes on both of these steps," says Zhang. "This protein, or those associated with it, might offer some new therapeutic strategies to investigate."

ARF and the proteins it has power over are major players in cancer development, say the investigators. ARF is the second most frequently altered protein in cancer development, and it helps manage the tumor suppressor protein p53, which is the most common protein defect associated with cancer. That was already known. Now, this study shows that ARF also controls a protein known as B23, which is found in abnormally high levels in almost every tumor cell -- but, before this work, no one knew both proteins interacted.

In order for a cell to grow, it must produce new proteins. To do that, small round bodies within the cell known as ribosomes develop, based on inst
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Contact: Heather Russell
hrussell@mdanderson.org
713-792-0655
University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center
20-Nov-2003


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