Researchers at the University of Gothenburg (Sweden) have identified a hitherto unknown mechanism that controls tumor growth in cultured cells and mice.
It is a protein that binds to genetic material and, as researchers now show, also controls properties that regulate tumor development.
The protein, known as HnRNPK, binds to messenger RNA (mRNA) encoded by the two genes IER3 and IER3-AS1. These genes are highly active in various forms of cancer. By binding to the mRNA of these genes, HnRNPK prevents the formation of double-stranded RNA between them and keeps them apart.
“Keeping the RNAs of these two genes separate favors the growth of tumors that depend on growth factors. Without the HnRNPK protein, the properties that promote tumor growth they neutralizewhich paves the way for the development of drugs that block HnRNPK,” says Chandrasekhar Kanduri, one of the researchers.
Prevents double strand formation
The study also shows that, in a similar way, the HnRNPK protein binds to the mRNA of other genes, preventing the formation of double-stranded RNA.
The discovery makes it possible to indirectly influence the growth factor FGF-2, which is well known to be key both in the process by which stem cells mature into various cell types and in the early embryonic development.
“Given the crucial role of FGF-2 in normal human development, the use of drugs directly targeting the growth factor would have too many side effects. The mechanism that we have identified is now part of the same signaling chain, but further down. Therefore, the mechanism has the potential to become a most attractive option for cancer treatmentwith fewer side effects,” says Meena Kanduri, corresponding author of the article.
Are needed more investigations to verify the transferability of the finding from cell culture and mouse studies to humans. In the next stage, the group plans to conduct extended studies to examine in more detail how the pair of genes regulated by FGF-2 governs the growth environment of tumors.