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Surprising new insights into the PTEN tumor suppressor gene
Date:4/24/2014

. When PTEN is mutated, it loses this suppressive ability, and the cancer-promoting proteins are left intact and uninhibited. This new study unexpectedly shows that the PTEN mutant protein is not only functionally impaired (losing its enzymatic function) it additionally acquires the ability to affect the function of the normal PTEN proteins, thereby gaining a "pro-tumorigenic" function.

"We sought to compare PTEN loss with PTEN mutations," explains first author Antonella Papa, PhD, an investigator in the Pandolfi laboratory. "We wanted to know, would outcomes differ in cases when PTEN was not expressed compared with cases when PTEN was expressed, but encoded a mutation within its sequence? It turned out the answer was yes."

The scientific team created several genetically modified strains of mice to mimic the PTEN mutations found in human cancer patients. "All mice [and humans] have two copies of the PTEN gene," Papa explains. "The genetically modified mice in our study had one copy of the PTEN gene that contained a cancer-associated mutation [either PTENC124S or PTENG129E] and one normal copy of PTEN. Other mice in the study had only one copy of the normal PTEN gene, and the second copy was removed."

The researchers found that the mice with a single mutated copy of PTEN were more tumor-prone than the mice with a deleted copy of PTEN. They also discovered that the mutated protein that was produced by PTENC124S or PTENG129E was binding to and inhibiting the PTEN protein made from the normal copy of the PTEN gene.

"This was very surprising, as we were expecting a reduction in tumorigenesis,," says Papa. "Instead, mechanistically, we found that PTEN exists as a dimer [two-protein complex] and in this new conformation, the mutated protein prevents the normal protein from functioning." At the molecular level, she adds, this generates an increased activation of a PTEN target a protein called Akt which is what leads to the augmented t
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Contact: Bonnie Prescott
bprescot@bidmc.harvard.edu
617-667-7306
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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