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Penn researchers show nuclear stiffness keeps stem cells and cancer cells in place
Date:2/25/2014

Adult stem cells and cancer cells have many things in common, including an ability to migrate through tiny gaps in tissue. Both types of cells also experience a trade-off when it comes to this ability; having a flexible nucleus makes migration easier but is worse at protecting the nucleus' DNA compared to a stiffer nucleus. Nuclear proteins that regulate nuclear stiffness are therefore thought to control processes as diverse as tissue repair and tumor growth.

In a study published in the Journal of Cell Biology, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have shown that cell migration through micron-size pores is regulated by lamin-A, a nuclear protein that is very similar to the fibrous ones that make up hair.

They have also shown that a cell's ability to survive the mechanical stress of migration depends on proteins called "heat shock factors." Using an anti-cancer drug that inhibits heat shock responses, they showed that this drug's effectiveness relies on inhibiting the invasive migration of cells via the same mechanism.

Taking into account the role that lamin-A plays in increasing nuclear stiffness could help stem cell biologists and cancer clinicians interpret the diversity of nuclear shapes seen in a static sample of tissue under a microscope. Nuclei normally appear rounded but can also appear multi-lobed or greatly elongated; high lamin-A levels tend to produce the more distorted shapes after a cell squeezes its nucleus through a narrow pore.

"If we can understand more clearly the effects the lamin-A meshwork within nuclei has on the ability of cells to crawl through tiny openings," said Dennis Discher, professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, " then we can develop better nucleus-directed treatments for stopping the spread of cancer or for keeping stem cells in the right place while they grow into tissue."

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Contact: Evan Lerner
elerner@upenn.edu
215-573-6604
University of Pennsylvania
Source:Eurekalert  

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