One of the most intriguing questions in cancer research is what causes metastatic tumour migration, why some tumour cells manage to migrate to other parts of the body but others cells don't. International investigation conducted by Enrique Martn Blanco, CSIC researcher at the Institute of Biology of Barcelona, located in the Barcelona Science Park, reveals that cells make use of a natural mechanism for this. It happens to be a family of proteins that trigger cell migration in normal processes such as growth or healing. Nevertheless, this mechanism had never been identified before in healthy cells.
The work, published in the latest issue of the Current Biology journal, is also signed by researchers at the Biozentrum from Basel University (Switzerland), and by the Universities of Coimbra (Portugal) and Freiburg (Germany).
As the authors explain, the ability of metastatic cells to migrate is not a proper mechanism of tumour cells - and therefore something that one might think is altered, but a natural ability of cells which, unfortunately, benefits metastasis.
Until now it was known that the metastasis of tumour cells can be induced by proteins such as BMPs (from 'bone morphogenetic proteins') or TGFβ (from 'transforming growth factor-β'). These proteins, identified in tumour cells of vertebrates, trigger cell migration and promote metastasis: they tell the cells that they must move and migrate, although not to where. And if these proteins are not activated in tumour cells, there is neither mobility nor invasion. But the unexplored question was if this mechanism is something exclusive of tumour cells or not.
Now the work of this international team has identified the same mechanism in the healthy cells of Drosophila melanogaster, the fruit fly.
Researchers have found that the Decapentaplegic protein (Dpp), an homologous protein of BMP and TGFβ, acts as signal of cell mobility. "The cells with Dpp
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