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UNC researchers discover 'master regulator' role for little-known protein in cancer cells
Date:4/29/2014

. It's more of a decision-maker. Yet, Choudhury found that DAZAP1 can still be manipulated. His experiments suggest that certain kinds of cancer cells are able to "down regulate" DAZAP1 to allow the cancer cells to divide quickly and relocate. How the cells "down regulate" DAZAP1 is not known. In fact, how the protein becomes part of cancer cell biology isn't well understood. That will require fully characterizing the protein and figuring out how DAZAP1 senses external signals like nutrients or growth factors that regulate its properties. This could open new avenues of research that will help scientists to better understand formation of certain cancer cell types and how they might be targeted.

DAZAP1 was unknown until 2000 when other researchers discovered the protein's role in male fertility. Few scientists had researched the protein's other potential roles in human biology. As a postdoc in the lab of Zefeng Wang, PhD, a member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, Choudhury stumbled upon DAZAP1 while searching for proteins involved in alternative splicing when a single gene organizes its genetic code to create different proteins with various functions.

Choudhury used high-throughput sequencing technology to find the targets of DAZAP1 and decipher whether DAZAP1 would bind to the exons and introns of genes. Exons are bits of genetic information along a strand of DNA. Introns are the spaces between exons. A single gene can make a variety of molecules depending on how exons and introns are spliced together. Choudhury wanted to study one of the proteins in the cell nucleus that binds to both exons and introns and thus plays a major role in how genes are spliced together to create the chains of amino acids that cause cells to act in specific ways, such as divide uncontrollably.

Another related paper published from the Wang lab indicated that DAZAP1 could bind to the introns as well as exons, but the molecular mechanism of DAZAP1
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Contact: Mark Derewicz
mark.derewicz@unch.unc.edu
919-923-0959
University of North Carolina Health Care
Source:Eurekalert

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