Is Protein Balance Involved in Preventing Cancer?

logo1267406_mdA new study published in a current issue of Developmental Cell concluded that two proteins previously believed to carry out the same function are actually antagonists of each other, and keeping them in balance is necessary to prevent cancer. Results suggest that new compounds could fight cancer by targeting the pathways responsible for maintaining the proper balance between the two proteins. The proteins, Rp122 and Rp122-like1 contribute to the process of making additional cellular proteins and are created by two similar genes. This lead to researchers to believe they had similar functions. However, the current researchers said “Not only are they performing different functions, they are antagonizing each other.”

In their research Rp122 was knocked out in zebrafish and without this zebrafish do not develop a type of T cells that help fight infection. The same results were observed when they knocked out Rp122-like1 and indicating that both proteins are independently needed to enable stem cells to give rise to T cells. When researchers tried to restore T cells in zebrafish that lacked Rp122 by adding back Rp122-like-1 it did not work. The reverse was also true.  Thus, researchers concluded that although both are required to produce stem cells,l they do not perform the same function. Next researchers looked at the level of different proteins invlived in stem cell production when either Rp122 or Rp122-like-1 were absent and found that without Rp122-like1 cells had lower levels of a protein known as Smad1 that is a critical driver of stem cell development. And when Rp122 disappeared, levels of Smal1 increased dramatically. Roth proteins can bind directly to the cellular RNA from which Smal1 is produced, suggesting that they maintain balance in stem cell production via their antagonistic effects on Smal1. The researchers said ” I like to think of Rp122 as a brake, and Rp122-like1 as a gas pedal and in order to drive stem cell production both need to be employed properly.  As an example they said too much Rp122 and stem cell production shuts off, decreasing the number of blood cells and leading to problems such as anemia, whereas, too much Rp122-like1 can create an over-production of stem cells leading to leukemia.

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