0659 GMT February 29, 2020
Researchers from Canada, Britain and Switzerland discovered a modified protein that acts as a ‘stop sign’ to prevent healthy cells from sorting material in the way they were designed to, according to a study published in the journal Nature Communications, UPI reported.
The key component is the addition of a phosphate that helps determine how proteins attach to membranes.
Scientists called the protein PIP-stop because it keeps molecules from interacting with lipid molecules called polactin-induced protein, or PIP. In essence, the cells are overused by cancerous ones.
Project leader Michael Overduin, a University of Alberta cancer researcher and professor of biochemistry, said, "We have discovered that breast cancer, and leukemia, lymphoma and neuroblastoma cells have too many PIP-stops.
"This would upset protein function, and opens up a new avenue for developing drugs that block PIP-stop formation by kinase enzymes."
The researchers figured out a way to sort proteins to their proper locations within the cell.
They used powerful magnets in Britain and Edmonton, Canada, to detect signals from protein structures — down to the atomic level.
The researchers focused on the protein structure to observe how the PIP-stop blocked the protein's function.
In samples from cancer patients, they had too many PIP-stops and unregulated growth could occur in tumor cells.
Similar PIP-stops also were overused in other proteins in other cancer types, leading to tumor growth.
Overduin said, “Our goal now is to design inhibitors for the overactive kinases that create PIP-stops, and to use this information to design drug molecules that block the progression of cancers, particularly those which lack effective treatments.