Researchers Believe “Ancient” Molecules Could Hold Promise to Solve Cancer Puzzle

Scientists with the National Foundation for Cancer Research recently announced they have discovered that an ancient group of molecules, which exist in all humans, called aaRSs, unexpectedly play a crucial role in the gene regulation process of an important tumor suppressing gene called p53.

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Bethesda, MD (PRWEB) May 08, 2012

Scientists with the National Foundation for Cancer Research recently announced they have discovered that an ancient group of molecules, which exist in all humans, called aaRSs, unexpectedly play a crucial role in the gene regulation process of an important tumor suppressing gene called p53. These “ancient” molecules, long thought to be exclusively involved in generating essential cell proteins, also interact with several other cellular molecules that make up an important part of a biological activator that stimulates p53 to do its anti-tumor work.

Because they are the major cause of many types of cancers, the focus of modern cancer research is mainly on those molecules which have a relatively high frequency of molecular changes or mutations. Molecules such as aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases (aaRSs) have received very limited attention from cancer researchers because of their highly unchanged molecular structure and function. Dr. Paul Schimmel and Dr. Xiang-Lei Yang, at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, CA recently published the unanticipated results in the scientific journal Nature Chemical Biology. This research by Dr. Schimmel and Dr. Yang was funded by National Foundation for Cancer Research.

Drs. Schimmel and Yang are the first scientists to recognize the importance of studying molecules, such as aaRSs, as a vital component of modern cancer research. This is well illustrated by their surprising research results on TrpRS, a member of the aaRSs family of molecules. “We are always happy when surprising data comes out of our research,” said Dr. Yang. “These results allow us to see an unexpected evolutionary expansion of a molecular apparatus from its role in protein production to one that links major signaling pathways.”

“I am very excited about the research results from the laboratory of Drs. Schimmel & Yang,” said Dr. Michael Wang, Chief Science Officer of NFCR. “Quite often, discoveries in one area will lead to breakthroughs in other fields. We anticipate that these TrpRS and other aaRSs molecules will be investigated more by researchers to find out the modern use of these ancient protein-making molecules in cancer prevention and treatment.”

Specifically, the research team at the Department of Molecular Biology at The Scripps Research Institute discovered that human Trp-tRNA synthetase (TrpRS), traditionally defined as having only a protein-making function in the cytoplasm, is directly involved in the process of gene regulation of the important tumor-suppressing gene, p53, inside the cell’s nucleus. This discovery, made by Dr. Schimmel, Dr. Yang, and their students, clearly demonstrates that through interactions with several other molecules in the cell nucleus, TrpRS becomes an important part of a biological activator that stimulates the p53 gene to do its anti-tumor work of antiangiogenesis (stopping the formation of vital blood vessels to tumors) and antiproliferation (inhibiting cell growth).

“The research results accomplished by Drs. Schimmel and Yang are another excellent example that shows the high importance of investing in basic science research, as an essential part of cancer research. In this way, NFCR’s research funding continues to make vital contributions to finding cures for cancer,” said Franklin C. Salisbury, Jr., President of NFCR.

About National Foundation for Cancer Research:
The National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR) is a leading charity dedicated to funding cancer research and public education relating to cancer prevention, earlier diagnosis, better treatments and, ultimately, cures for cancer. NFCR promotes and facilitates collaboration among scientists to accelerate the pace of discovery from bench to bedside.
Since 1973, NFCR has provided approximately $300 million in direct support of discovery-oriented cancer research focused on understanding how and why cells become cancerous, and on public education relating to cancer prevention, detection, and treatment. NFCR scientists are discovering cancer's molecular mysteries and translating these discoveries into therapies that hold the hope for curing cancer. NFCR is about Research for a Cure—cures for all types of cancer. For more information, please visit http://www.NFCR.org.

About The Scripps Research Institute:
The Scripps Research Institute, a non-profit research organizations, located in La Jolla, California, and Jupiter, Florida - stands at the forefront of basic biomedical science, a vital segment of medical research that seeks to comprehend the most fundamental processes of life. The institute is recognized for its research into immunology, molecular and cellular biology, chemistry, neurosciences, autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular diseases, virology, and synthetic vaccine development. Particularly significant is the institute's study of the basic structure and design of biological molecules; in this arena Scripps Research is among a handful of the world's leading centers. For more information, visit: http://www.scripps.edu


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