Leicester researchers help discover new target for anti-cancer drugs
Published by University of Leicester Press Office for University of Leicester in Health and also in Education
University of Leicester researchers have helped to show how a group of proteins cooperate within cells, which could be used to develop new anti-cancer drugs.
A team led by Dr Richard Bayliss, of the University’s Department of Biochemistry, and Dr Stephen Royle at the University of Warwick, worked to examine the role played by a group of proteins in mitosis - the process of distributing DNA equally in dividing cells.
The findings, published in The Journal of Cell Biology, show how a group of proteins named TACC3, ch-TOG and clathrin help to form support structures for chromosomes as they divide into two new cells.
When these structures are removed, cells are not able to divide and subsequently die.
This could be extremely useful for preventing the uncontrolled reproduction of cells which occurs in cancer.
The researchers now hope to move towards developing anti-cancer drugs which target TACC3 and associated proteins.
Dr Bayliss said: “The information we have gathered is a first step in pinning down which parts of these proteins can be targeted to prevent cell division. The next stage will be to resolve what these molecules look like at an atomic level.
“We would like to use this information to design new cancer drugs which especially target these proteins.”
During cell division, chromosomes – the structures containing DNA within cells – must be divided equally between the two new cells. This is achieved by the mitotic spindle, which uses fibres composed of microtubules to direct the movement of chromosomes inside the cell.
Some of these fibres are reinforced by "bridges" to ensure they can withstand the increased stresses involved– and most of these bridges are made from the group of proteins studied by Bayliss, Royle and collaborators.
They have made a key advance in showing that, when the interactions between these proteins are disrupted, they are no longer able to bind the microtubules, and as a result the mitotic spindles are significantly weaker.
Cancer cells depend on robust mitotic spindles to enable their proliferation, resulting in tumour growth. Drugs currently used to treat cancer bind to microtubules and destabilize mitotic spindles, but also affect the microtubules in normal cells.
Dr Bayliss said: "We believe that targeting the interaction between these three proteins could produce cancer drugs with fewer side effects than current treatments."
The research was funded by Cancer Research UK, the Medical Research Council and the Royal Society.