Thursday, June 13, 2013

Why tumor cells leave home

Malignant cells can escape from primary tumors and colonize new sites in other tissues. In a new study, LMU researchers show how the transcription factor AP4 promotes the development of such metastatic tumors.

Cell growth and cell division are markedly promoted by a master regulator called c-MYC, which functions as a transcription factor. The c-MYC protein is essential for all processes that require vigorous cell proliferation, such as embryonic development and hematopoiesis, and its function is normally kept under tight control. Indeed, failure of these control mechanisms can result in uninhibited cell proliferation – and the formation of tumors. This is underlined by the fact that levels of c-MYC are found to be abnormally high in about half of all human cancers.

The question of how c-MYC actually contributes to tumorigenesis is a major focus of research underway in Professor Heiko Hermeking’s laboratory at LMU. In a new study, he and his group have identified a further strand in the web of interactions governed by c-MYC. “In an earlier study, we had found that c-MYC induces expression of the transcription factor AP4. But as it was not known precisely which genes are regulated by the latter, it remained unclear which of c-MYC’s effects are mediated by AP4,” Hermeking explains.

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