How protein breaks apart cancer cells!

Last Updated: Mar 15, 2011, 00:00 AM IST

Melbourne: Scientists claim to have found how a protein works to break cells apart and in turn increases the spreading of cancer cells in the body, a finding which may pave the way for an effective treatment against the disease.

A team at the University of Queensland has found the method in which the HGF protein that "glue" cells together to form healthy tissues can come unstuck. The HGF protein is
often spotted in cancer.

"We examined a protein called HGF that is often found in cancer. HGF regulates cell growth, shape and movement and aids cancer cells in migrating to other tissues and spreading through the body.

"Scientists have long known that HGF disrupts the junctions where cells join together, but the exact mechanism of how this occurs hasn`t been understood until now," Sabine
Mangold, who led the team, said.

The team made by the discovery by examining the molecular machinery that binds cells. One key component is a protein called E-cadherin, which forms the adhesive to hold
cells together.

E-cadherin associates with a scaffold found inside the cells, made of a protein called actin. Normally, actin links into a meshwork with cadherin to make strong contacts between cells.

The scientists found that the actin scaffolding seemed to be lost just as the cell contacts became disrupted. They discovered this occurred because HGF caused another protein,
Myosin VI -- which normally acts to link cadherin and actin together -- to be lost from cadherin.

“So HGF was causing this interlinked meshwork of proteins to come apart, breaking up the system and causing cells to drift apart.”

"The discovery of this pathway may open new avenues to understand exactly how proteins that bind cells together are affected in disease, which could lead to new targets for treatments of such disease, including cancer," team member
Prof Alpha Yap said.

PTI