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New analytical approach can organize large amounts of varied cancer genetic data

May 10, 2017

Tonks, Muthuswamy and colleagues demonstrated for the first time that this particular PTP -- PTPN23 -- acts directly on SRC to inhibit its phosphate-adding activity. But when PTPN23 is suppressed, as in the team's experiments, SRC is free to add phosphates to other molecules in the cell, including E-cadherin and ??-catenin. Normally, these molecules are important in cell adhesion. But when they are phosphorylated by SRC, their ability to function as the "glue" that holds cells to their anchors in epithelial tissue is impaired, and the cells are able to break free. This adds interest to the observation, made by others, that the gene that expresses PTPN23 is located within a "hotspot" on human chromosome 3 (3p21) that is mutated in breast and other cancers.

"Considering the negative effect of PTPN23 on SRC activity, loss of PTPN23 may promote tumor growth and metastasis in breast tumors that are associated with activation of SRC," the team suggests in a paper on the research published today in the journal Genes & Development.

This fine-grained picture of how an absence of PTPN23 can set in motion a chain of events in breast epithelial cells that promotes cancer proliferation in turn suggests the next step in the research. The team tried and was able to reverse the metastatic effects set in train by PTPN23 suppression in these cancer-cell models by introducing a candidate drug molecule called SU6656, which inhibits SRC.

On the theory that PTPN23 regulates the activity of SRC and the phosphorylation status of the E-cadherin/??-catenin signaling complexes to modulate cell motility, invasion and scattering, the team has moved to a new set of experiments in living mice which have been genetically engineered to lack PTPN23. In such animals, they expect aggressive tumors to form. They seek to address these by treating the mice with inhibitors of SRC.

Source: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory