BOSTON -- In findings with major implications for the genetics of cancer and human health, researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and two other science teams in New York City and Rome have uncovered evidence of powerful new genetic networks and showed how it may work to drive cancer and normal development.
Four papers published online Oct. 14 in the journal Cell describe aspects of what may be a fundamentally new dimension of genetic activity that involves a vast posse of RNA molecules interacting and manipulating the molecular endgame behind the scenes. Each paper used a different approach, strengthening the basic discovery of the new RNA network.
In the half-century old central dogma of molecular biology, DNA issues its genetic blueprint to messenger RNA, which relays the orders to the protein-making machinery of the cell. The new studies suggest a significant new role for RNA on top of its traditional middle-management job: The RNA of one gene can control and be controlled by dozens or hundreds of RNAs of other genes.
In the case of a major tumor suppressor gene, PTEN, a shift in the associated RNA network appears to be as malevolent as a mutation in the gene itself in human prostate and colon cancer cells, in glioblastoma cells, and in a mouse model of melanoma, according to three of the papers.
The findings may enlarge the framework for investigating how tumors form and progress, who is at risk for cancer, and how to find and disable the essential misbehaving molecules that drive the growth and spread of cancer.
"For instance, we now know that the PTEN tumor suppressor gene is talking to a vast unrecognized RNA network," said Pier Paolo Pandolfi MD PhD, director of the Cancer Genetics Program at BIDMC and George C. Reisman Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and the senior author of two of the papers. "The RNAs talk through a
|Contact: Bonnie Prescott|
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center