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Mount Sinai researchers make major breakthrough in melanoma research
Date:12/22/2010

In a breakthrough that could lead to new treatments for patients with malignant melanoma, researchers from Mount Sinai School of Medicine have discovered that a particular protein suppresses the progression of melanoma through regulation of an oncogene, or gene responsible for cancer growth. The study is published in the December 23 issue of Nature.

Researchers studied the natural progression of melanoma using mouse and human cells, as well as patient samples and determined that the presence of a specific histone variant, which is a protein that helps package DNA, was directly related to the growth of melanoma. In all instances, researchers observed that as the melanoma became more aggressive, the presence of the histone variant macroH2A decreased. Researchers then manipulated macroH2A levels in melanoma and found that when they removed it in the early stages of the disease, the melanoma progressed more aggressively both in growth and metastasis. Adding macroH2A to late-stage aggressive melanoma cells created the opposite effect.

"We wanted to determine whether macroH2A is a passenger in this process or if it's crucial in the progression of melanoma," said Emily Bernstein, PhD, Assistant Professor of Oncological Sciences and Dermatology, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and lead author of the study. When further investigating macroH2A function in melanoma, the researchers found that it regulates CDK8, a known oncogene for colorectal cancer. "CDK8 is highly expressed in aggressive melanoma, suggesting it also plays a major role in the process," Dr. Bernstein explained.

Through further functional studies, researchers found that eliminating macroH2A led to an increase in CDK8 expression, and the elimination of CDK8 in metastatic melanoma cells impaired their proliferation. These results suggest that macroH2A suppresses melanoma progression, at least in part, through the regulation of CDK8.

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Contact: Mount Sinai Press Office
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212-241-9200
The Mount Sinai Hospital / Mount Sinai School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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