COLUMBUS, Ohio A new study shows that a family of molecules called microRNA work together in single, well-connected networks to control many important functions in healthy cells, but that in cancer cells the networks are rewired and fragmented.
The research, led by scientists at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center-Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute in collaboration with investigators at 11 other centers, introduces a new way of discovering cancer genes and identifies new miRNAs that can be used as targets for drug development and pinpoints possible new cancer-related proteins, says study leader Dr. Carlo Croce, professor of molecular virology, immunology and medical genetics, and director of Ohio State's Human Cancer Genetics program.
MicroRNA (miRNA) are tiny molecules discovered 10 years ago that control important cell functions, including growth, proliferation and differentiation. Abnormal miRNA activity plays an important role in cancer development.
The new study, published in the May 3 issue of the journal Genome Research, shows that the miRNA network in healthy cells, when mapped, resembles a family tree with dozens to hundreds of members. Each cell type has its own specific network, with particular miRNAs playing a more central role and serving as hubs within the network.
In cancer cells, however, the single network is replaced by subnetworks that usually include small detached clusters of two to six miRNAs.
"The presence of these small groups that exist outside the main network was completely unexpected," Croce says. "Some of these miRNA outliers are well known cancer genes, while the involvement of others in cancer was unknown."
Previous studies have measured differences in individual miRNA levels between cancer and normal tissues, says first author Stefano Volinia, assistant professor of biomedical informatics and of molecular virology,
|Contact: Darrell E. Ward|
Ohio State University Medical Center