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Scientists discover a mechanism that can send cells on the road to cancer
Date:4/22/2008

Using a common virus as a tool for investigating abnormal cell proliferation, a team led by scientists at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) has succeeded in clarifying an intricate series of biochemical steps that shed light on a way that cancer can begin.

The teams findings are the latest in a long and distinguished line of research at CSHL involving adenovirus, a type of virus that causes the common cold in people, but whose genome contains known oncogenes -- genes whose expression can promote cancer under certain conditions.

Adenovirus carries a number of cooperating genes that modulate cell growth in ways were interested in, said William Tansey, Ph.D., who, along with CSHL professors Scott Lowe, Ph.D., and Gregory Hannon, Ph.D., is one of the teams co-leaders and corresponding author of a paper to be published April 22 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Other team members include molecular biologists from Stony Brook University in New York.

Using a Tumor Virus to Illuminate Function

The team focused on an adenoviral oncogene called E1A, and a protein that it codes for with the same name. Both have received a great deal of attention over the years, said Dr. Tansey, and to understand why, it helps to understand why viruses -- in this case, adenovirus, a DNA tumor virus -- is useful to us. We use them as you would use a flashlight, to illuminate important processes inside the cell that help us understand what goes awry in oncogenesis.

Viruses cant reproduce on their own. A DNA virus like adenovirus is little more than a tiny, double-stranded segment of DNA enclosed within a protein shell. It must find a way to enter the nucleus of a living cell and hijack the cells reproductive machinery in order to reproduce itself. Its not adenovirus itself, but the things it does when it enters a cell, that really interest us, Dr. Tansey explained. By looking, in particular, at the activity of the
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Contact: Jim Bono
bono@cshl.edu
516-367-8455
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert

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