Gene expression is the process of converting the genetic information encoded in DNA into a final gene product such as a protein or any of several types of RNA. Scientists have long thought that the gene programs regulated by different physiological processes throughout the body are robustly pre-determined and relatively fixed for every specialized cell. But a new study by researchers from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine reveals the unsuspected plasticity of some of these gene expression programs.
Their findings, to be published in the May 15 advanced on-line edition of journal Nature, show the existence of distinct regulated gene programs that can be alternatively induced, depending on the intracellular conditions. The study helps explain why, for example, the same signaling event such as cellular response to circulating hormones in the human body can be beneficial for normal development, but also becomes cancerous when combined with other genetic lesions.
The UCSD scientists found that the response to the hormone androgen in prostatic epithelial cells can be subject to dramatic reprogramming events that lead to alternative gene programs and profiles. They suggest that this plasticity could be the basis for development and progression of at least some forms of cancer, as well as for cell differentiation during development.
From a patient perspective, the results of this study may explain how hormonal therapy, applied to prostate cancer patients to block the pre-established, hormone-regulated tumor growth, escapes this treatment in a more malignant way.
"Aggressive cell types, such as those found in prostate cancer, basically learn to ignore the hormone therapy," said co-principal investigator Xiang-Dong Fu, PhD, professor in the UCSD Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, who collaborated with co-principal investigator Michael G. Rosenfeld, MD, professor in the UCSD Department of
|Contact: Debra Kain|
University of California - San Diego