The accumulation of unfolded proteins in the endoplasmic reticulum, an inner cell component where newly made proteins are folded, initiates a stress program, the UPR, to support cell survival. Normally, UPR kicks in when there is an imbalance in the number of proteins that need to be folded and chaperones, specialized proteins that help fold them.
Analysis of mouse and human lymphomas demonstrated significantly higher levels of UPR activation compared with normal tissues. Using multiple genetic models, the two teams, in collaboration with additional labs in the US and Europe, demonstrated that Myc specifically activated one arm of the UPR, leading to increased cell survival by autophagy.
Autophagy is a survival pathway allowing a cell to recycle damaged proteins when it's under stress and reuse the damaged parts to fuel further growth. Cancer cells might be addicted to autophagy, since this innate response may be a critical means by which the cells survive the nutrient limitation and lack of oxygen commonly found within tumors.
Inhibition of one protein, PERK, in the UPR arm studied, significantly reduced Myc-induced autophagy and tumor formation. What's more, drug- or genetic-mediated inhibition of autophagy increased Myc-dependent cell death.
"Our findings establish a role for UPR as an enhancer of c-Mycinduced lymphomas and suggest that inhibiting UPR may be particularly effective against cancers characterized by c-Myc overexpression," says Koumenis. "In this context the UPR essentially acts as one of the cell's rheostats to counterbalance Myc's runaway cell replication nature and its pro-cell-death tendencies."
However, Koumenis indicates that further research is needed on the potential effects of PERK inhibition on normal tissues: "Although data from our lab and other groups suggest that PERK inhibition in tumors grown in animals is feasible, other studie
|Contact: Karen Kreeger|
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine