A new programming mechanism for the expression of genes responsible for converting a healthy cell into a tumor cell has bee identified by researchers. In the study, published in this week's edition of Nature Medicine, the scientists have identified the protein CPEB4 as a "cellular orchestra conductor" that "activates" hundreds of genes associated with tumor growth.
"The peculiarity is that it would not only be the mutation of a specific gene that promotes tumor growth but the expression of a protein in an incorrect site that "triggers" hundreds of messenger molecules (mRNAs), which transmit gene information for the synthesis of proteins, without these genes being mutated. This process leads to the expression of many "normal" genes but in unsuitable amounts and times that more greatly resemble early embryonic developmental stages rather than the stages of adult organ development", explains Raúl Méndez, an expert in the CPEB protein family. "This would be the case of tPA (tissue plasminogen activator), a protein that is not normally found in the healthy pancreas but that shows high expression in pancreatic tumors", clarifies Elena Ortiz-Zapater, the first author of the article, and Pilar Navarro.