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"Tribbles" Protein Implicated in Leukemia

s, activating gene transcription in the nucleus of many types of cells, and depending on the biochemical context, turns certain pathways on and others off.

Pear and colleagues knew from fruit fly studies that the Tribbles protein was linked to cell growth and cell-fate determination and is closely related to the Tribbles gene in mammals. In fact, Tribbles is so named because, when mutated in flies, it causes cells to proliferate uncontrollably.

Accumulating evidence from several groups shows that Tribbles functions as a scaffold to bring together a complex that mediates protein degradation. Protein degradation is required for normal cellular function; however, data from the Pear lab suggests that mistakes in the expression of the Tribbles gene may lead to degradation of proteins that hold cancer in check, such as tumor suppressors. “One of our current challenges is to determine what other proteins Tribbles degrades to cause leukemia,” says Pear.

The findings in mice were also validated in a large database of human cancer patients. In a survey of gene expression in AML patients, high Tribbles expression was found in a subset of patients who had been previously characterized by defects in C/EBP?.

According to Keeshan, “C/EBPa defects have also been identified in lung cancer and other tumors, suggesting the possibility that Trib2 dysregulation may be identified in other tumors. Furthermore, linking Trib2 to human cancer adds further support to the notion that targeting the protein degradation machinery will be a useful strategy in treating malignancy.”

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