The progress made by scientists at Burnham Institute for Medical Research takes then a step closer to creating new cancer treatments.
The Bcl-2 protein has long been implicated in protecting cancer cells from apoptosis, the process that usually keeps cancer cells in check.
The researchers have revealed that the peptide called NuBCP-9, and its mirror-image molecule work on Bcl-2 like a molecular switch, converting it into a pro-apoptotic protein, and inducing cell death in cancer cells.
"Our results provide insight into Bcl-2 conversion and identify a new direction for Bcl-2-based drug leads and cancer drug development," said Dr. Xiao-kun Zhang, who co-authored the paper with Dr. Arnold Satterthwait and others.
The researchers created the NuBCP-9 peptide from Nur77, a potent pro-apoptotic protein.
Nur77 often moves from the nucleus to mitochondria, in response to different death signals, where it binds to Bcl-2, changing its shape and function.
A report on this study has been published in the journal Cancer Cell.