Washington: A new cell study has mapped one of the most important proteins in cell division that has a fundamental process in life and the development of cancer, which might also help fight against it.
A team from The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge produced the first detailed images of the anaphase-promoting complex (APC/C). Images of the gigantic protein in unprecedented detail would transform scientists' understanding of exactly how cells copy their chromosomes and divide, and could reveal binding sites for future cancer drugs.
The APC/C performs a wide range of vital tasks associated with mitosis, the process during which a cell copies its chromosomes and pulls them apart into two separate cells. Mitosis is used in cell division by all animals and plants. Discovering its structure could ultimately lead to new treatments for cancer, which hijacks the normal process of cell division to make thousands of copies of harmful cancer cells.
The resolution was so fine that it allowed the researchers to see the secondary structure, the set of basic building blocks which combine to form every protein. Alpha-helix rods and folded beta-sheet constructions were clearly visible within the 20 subunits of the APC/C, defining the overall architecture of the complex.
Dr Kat Arney, Science Information Manager at Cancer Research UK, said that shaping out how the fundamental molecular "nuts and bolts" of cells work was critical because better understanding about what goes wrong in cancer cells was required and figuring out more effective ways of tackling them. Revealing the intricate details of biological shapes was a hugely important step towards identifying targets for future cancer drugs.
The research is published in Nature.