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Brain cancer: Hunger for amino acids makes it more aggressive
Date:6/24/2013

To fuel phases of fast and aggressive growth, tumors need higher-than-normal amounts of energy and the molecular building blocks needed to build new cellular components. Cancer cells therefore consume a lot of sugar (glucose A number of tumors are also able to catabolize the amino acid glutamine, an important building block of proteins. A key enzyme in amino acid decomposition is isocitrate dehydrogenase (IDH). Several years ago, scientists discovered mutations in the gene coding for IDH in numerous types of brain cancer. Very malignant brain tumors called primary glioblastomas carry an intact IDH gene, whereas those that grow more slowly usually have a defective form.

"The study of the IDH gene currently is one of the most important diagnostic criteria for differentiating glioblastomas from other brain cancers that grow more slowly," says Dr. Bernhard Radlwimmer from the German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ). "We wanted to find out what spurs the aggressive growth of glioblastomas." In collaboration with scientists from other institutes including Heidelberg University Hospital, Dr. Martje Tnjes and Dr. Sebastian Barbus from Radlwimmer's team compared gene activity profiles from several hundred brain tumors. They aimed to find out whether either altered or intact IDH show further, specific genetic characteristics that might help explain the aggressiveness of the disease.

The researchers found a significant difference between the two groups in the highly increased activity of the gene for the BCAT1 enzyme, which in normal brain tissue is responsible for breaking down so-called branched-chain amino acids. However, Radlwimmer's team discovered, only those tumor cells whose IDH gene is not mutated produce BCAT1. "This is not surprising, because as IDH breaks down amino acids, it produces ketoglutarate a molecule which BCAT1 needs. This explains why BCAT1 is produced only in tumor cells carrying intact IDH. The t
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Contact: Dr. Sibylle Kohlstädt
s.kohlstaedt@dkfz.de
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres
Source:Eurekalert

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