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USC researchers identify DNA mutation that occurs at beginning point of T-cell lymphoma
Date:6/12/2009

Researchers at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC) have identified a key mechanism that causes chromosomes within blood cells to breakan occurrence that marks the first step in the development of human lymphoma.

The study provides researchers with the clearest insight yet into why these breakagescalled chromosomal translocationsoccur at a specific points in the chromosome, says principal investigator Michael R. Lieber, M.D., Ph.D., Rita and Edward Polusky Professor in Basic Cancer Research at the Keck School of Medicine.

The study appears as the featured cover article in the June 12 issue of the journal Molecular Cell. The study is the second led by Lieber to appear on the cover of a Cell journal in the past six months.

"The new findings go to the heart of why cancers begin. This is an opportunity to see the very beginning step of human lymphoma," Lieber says. "With this information, we can now begin to look at ways to interfere with this process in order to stop the lymphoma and to develop more targeted therapies for treatment."

There are two types of lymphoma: B cell lymphomas and T cell lymphomas. Both B cells and T cells perform vital functions in the immune system by creating antibodies and destroying virus-infected cells. However, the beginning point, or inception, of most human lymphomas occurs when two chromosomes break and the resulting fragments are reassembled in an exchange.

Researchers specifically looked at T cell acute lymphoblastic lymphomas (ALL). ALL accounts for half of all childhood cancers under the age of five, and T cell ALL represents about 10 percent of ALL. The USC scientists identified a specific enzyme known as the RAG complex that occasionally cuts the chromosome at an off-target site, causing lymphocyte (blood) cells to proliferate uncontrollably.

They showed that the RAG complex selects the wrong target largely because the prot
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Contact: Meghan Lewit
lewit@usc.edu
323-442-3941
University of Southern California
Source:Eurekalert

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