Scientists have identified an enzyme that appears to be a significant regulator of breast cancer development.
Called PTPN23, the enzyme is a member of a family called protein tyrosine phosphatases, or PTPs, that plays a fundamental role in switching cell signaling on and off.
When the scientists suppressed the expression of PTPN23 in human mammary cells, they noted a cascade of effects that included the cells breaking away from their anchors; their scattering; and their invasion through extracellular matrix (essentially, cells' mooring in tissue).
These are the hallmarks of metastasis, the primary cause of mortality in cancer.
PTPs are able to affect cell signaling as a consequence of their very specific biochemical function: they remove phosphate groups from other molecules.
CSHL Professor Nicholas Tonks, who purified the first PTP over 20 years ago, teamed up with Associate Professor Senthil Muthuswamy, an expert on kinases and breast cancer biology, for the study.
The study was published in the journal Genes and Development.