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'Mahjong' gene is key player when cancer, normal cells compete
Date:7/13/2010

A landmark study by Florida State University biologists, in collaboration with scientists in Britain, is the first to identify a life-or-death "cell competition" process in mammalian tissue that suppresses cancer by causing cancerous cells to kill themselves.

Central to their discovery was the researchers' identification of "Mahjong" a gene that can determine the winners of the competition through its close relationship with another powerful protein player. Lead author Yoichiro Tamori and Associate Professor Wu-Min Deng of Florida State and Yasuyuki Fujita of University College London named the newfound gene after the Chinese game of skill and luck.

The findings shed light on the critical interactions between cancerous cells and surrounding tissue, and confirm that those interactions occur not only in fruit fly models but also in mammalian cell cultures.

Tamori and team found that Mahjong binds to and interacts with the tumor suppressor gene "Lethal giant larvae" (Lgl). That bond allows Mahjong to influence the outcome of cell competition, because it is mutations in Lgl or in genes interacting with it that transform a normal cell into a malignant one, triggering the lethal showdown between neighboring healthy cells and cancerous ones.

"A better understanding of the ways that inherited or acquired mutations in key proteins lead to cell competition should help foster new therapies that increase the odds of victory for normal cells," said Tamori, a postdoctoral fellow in Florida State's Department of Biological Science.

PLoS Biology will publish the findings, which the researchers describe in their paper "Involvement of Lgl and Mahjong/VprBP in Cell Competition." The article can be accessed online after 5 p.m. EDT July 13 at www.plosbiology.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pbio.1000422.

The study began
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Contact: Yoichiro Tamori
yotamori@bio.fsu.edu
850-645-1502
Florida State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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