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Drug Strategy Makes Cancer Genes Get Lost in Translation

their so-called 5' end, the researchers explained. The lengthy region of weak mRNAs serves as an obstacle for the ribosomal machinery that does the translating, making it a challenge to determine where to begin, he added.

In contrast, strong mRNAs have only short 5' untranslated regions that allow for easier protein formation. The successful translation of weak mRNAs therefore depends more heavily on other protein factors, called initiation factors, to help the process along.

In the current study, the researchers sought to capitalize on the weakness of cancer-related mRNAs by disrupting the interaction between two protein initiation factors, eIF4E and eIF4G.

Assembly of the eIF4E/eIF4G complex is known to have a central role in controlling genes at the level of translation initiation. The complex is normally kept under wraps by still other proteins, the 4E-BPs, which compete with the initiation factors for binding and have tumor-suppressor activity.

The researchers screened thousands of available small molecules for their ability to interfere with the initiation proteins' interaction in a manner similar to the 4E-BPs. The most potent compound identified, 4EGI-1, binds one of the proteins, eIF4E, thereby disrupting the ability of the eIF4E/eIF4G complex to do its job. That interference, in turn, blocked the formation of proteins that require assistance from initiation factors.

"Surprisingly, this compound does not inhibit binding of [the tumor suppressor] 4E-BP1 to eIF4E and instead causes a significant apparent increase in the amount of this protein that is bound," the researchers reported.

Treatment of mammalian cancer cells with the compound had a similar effect on the translation of weak mRNAs to that seen in the initial in vitro tests, they show. What's more, the level of a classic housekeeping gene remained unaffected in treated cells, while expression of two oncogenes, c-Myc and Bcl-xL, de
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