ADAM-12 gene could play a major role in the fight against cancer, arthritis, and cardiac hypertrophy, or thickening of the heart's walls, University of Missouri scientists have found.
Alpana Ray, of the MU College of Veterinary Medicine, and a team of researchers including Bimal Ray, professor of Veterinary Pathobiology, discussed one pathway by which the ADAM-12 gene could be regulated, a process that could eventually be used as part of a treatment plan.
Scientists know that ADAM-12 is normally found in very low levels in adults, but during cancer, arthritis and cardiac hypertrophy, ADAM-12 level goes up.
The only time it is normal to find a high level of the gene is during pregnancy, when ADAM-12 can be found in the placenta.
At the molecular level, Ray's team found a Z-DNA-binding silencer element that keeps the level of ADAM-12 low in normal conditions. They believe that if they could alter Z-DNA-binding silencer, new therapies could be right around the corner.
"We are finding that in the placenta, where ADAM-12 is highly expressed, the repressor protein (Z-DNA-binding protein) is inactive. In other tissues, where ADAM-12 expression is low, the repressor is active. What we don't know is how it actually works. We know co-factors are at work here. If we can identify the class of proteins that interact with Z-DNA repressor, it could lead to many therapeutic applications," said Alpana.
Because ADAM-12 is a versatile gene, it may play a role in metastasis during which cancer cells travel throughout the body and spread to other organs.
"We know that ADAM-12 causes cells to anchor to one another, and we know that ADAM-12 allows cancer cells to proliferate," she said.
The findings have been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).