June 12, 2012
Kill The Messenger
A small molecule developed at the Weizmann Institute prevents a cancer-causing message from entering the cell nucleus
What´s good news in one setting might spell disaster in another. In cancer for instance, when a certain cell is commanded to grow and divide without restraint, it´s a welcome message for the cell itself but a tragedy for the person who harbors this cell in his or her body. Weizmann Institute scientists have managed to decipher and block one type of molecular message that prompts unbridled cellular growth.
At first, Seger studied the transmission of molecular messages by these enzymes in the cell´s cytoplasm. Four years ago, he and his team succeeded in revealing the details of the later, most crucial step: the entry of the message into the cell´s nucleus. The scientists identified a segment called NTS in the enzymes. NTS undergoes a change, through the addition of phosphorus molecules, which makes the enzymes´ entry into the nucleus possible. When they created a small peptide mimicking NTS, the message was blocked, failing to reach the nucleus. As a result, the cell stopped growing: Apparently, the peptide had intercepted the “enter the nucleus!” command. In experiments with mice, the peptide effectively blocked the development of several types of cancer, particularly melanoma: Not only did the tumors stop growing, they disappeared entirely.
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