Montreal, October 28, 2010 A team of scientists at the Institut de recherches cliniques de Montral (IRCM) led by Dr. Jean-Franois Ct, Director of the Cytoskeletal Organization and Cell Migration research unit, identified a novel molecular mechanism in the control of cell motility. Their findings were published online today in Current Biology, a journal from the Cell Press group. This scientific breakthrough could eventually lead to the development of new cancer-treating drugs that could block the spread of tumours (metastasis).
"As many as 90% of cancer patient deaths are attributable to metastasis, which explains the importance of understanding the molecular mechanisms at the basis of this harmful process," says Dr. Ct. "This is why, over the past few years, we have focused our research on DOCK180, a protein involved in intracellular signalling networks, and more particularly on the DOCK180/Rac1 signalling pathway, which is suspected to be a key mediator of tumour metastasis."
Unlike normal cells that migrate throughout embryonic and adult life to perform their specialized functions, cancer cells metastasize in order to lethally spread throughout the body. At a molecular level, DOCK180 specifically activates the small Rac1 protein, which, in turn, modifies a cell's shape and promotes cell motility and invasion. Dr. Ct's team had previously demonstrated in detail how DOCK180, with the help of its binding partner ELMO, acts on Rac1 to promote robust cell migration.
"We knew that this signalling pathway had to be regulated to prevent uncontrolled cell migration in normal conditions, but until now, the mechanisms involved had been eluding us and other scientists," explains Manishha Patel, a PhD student in Dr. Ct's laboratory and co-author of the study. "With our recent findings, we demonstrated that the ELMO protein closes in on itself to enter a repressed state, thus preventing the activation of the DOCK180/Rac pathway."
|Contact: Julie Langelier|
Institut de recherches cliniques de Montreal