HOUSTON - Two previously unconnected cancer-promoting proteins team up to ambush a critical tumor suppressor by evicting it from the cell's nucleus and then marking it for death by a protein-shredding mechanism, a team led by scientists at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center reports in the Feb. 10 issue of Nature Cell Biology.
The paper is the first to illuminate a mechanism of attack on FOXO3a, a member of the forkhead family of tumor-suppressing proteins, notes senior author Mien-Chie Hung, Ph.D., chair of M. D. Anderson's Department of Molecular and Cellular Oncology.
"We know that FOXO3a is inactivated in about 80 percent of breast tumors, and that it's likely to be inactivated in other solid tumors because three major oncogenic pathways separately target it," Hung said. "The implication is that forkhead activation will be a great therapeutic target because it would be a powerful tumor-suppressor."
Hung and colleagues focused on the effect of the RAS-ERK signaling pathway, which is known to promote tumor growth and proliferation. FOXO3a and its other forkhead cousins have a specific structure - the forkhead box - that allows them to connect with DNA. They are transcription factors, activating or repressing target genes involved in tumor suppression and DNA damage repair.
The team shows in a series of lab experiments that ERK attaches phosphate groups to three specific sites on FOXO3a. This phosphorylated version of FOXO3a is hijacked out of the nucleus, so it can no longer do its job transcribing tumor-suppressing-genes.
Enter the second oncogenic protein, MDM2. MDM2, the team shows, only recognizes the phosphorylated version of FOXO3a. By attaching a string of targeting proteins known as ubiquitins to the phosphorylated tumor suppressor, MDM2 marks it for destruction by the ubiquitin-proteasome degradation pathway.
"Both ERK and MDM2 are well-known oncoproteins, but their collabora
|Contact: Scott Merville|
University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center