Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Protein Protects Embryonic Stem Cells' Versatility And Self-renewal

Date:
March 24, 2008
Source:
University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center
Summary:
The protein REST protects the pluripotentiality and self-renewal of embryonic stem cells by suppressing a specific microRNA. The basic finding has implications for regenerative medicine. The new research builds on earlier work connecting the protein to medulloblastoma -- an aggressive childhood brain cancer.

A protein known as REST blocks the expression of a microRNA that prevents embryonic stem cells from reproducing themselves and causes them to differentiate into specific cell types, scientists at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center report in the journal Nature.

Related Articles


Researchers show RE1-silencing transcription factor (REST) plays a dual role in embryonic stem cells, said senior author Sadhan Majumder, Ph.D., professor in M. D. Anderson's Department of Cancer Genetics. "It maintains self-renewal, or the cell's ability to make more and more cells of its own type, and it maintains pluripotency, meaning that the cells have the potential to become any type of cell in the body."

The paper posted online March 23 in advance of publication grew from M. D. Anderson research on the protein's role in medulloblastoma -- an exceptionally aggressive pediatric brain cancer.

Embryonic stem cells are essentially blank slates. They have the unique ability to develop from identical, unspecialized cells and then differentiate into distinct types of cells with special functions. In the laboratory, scientists have been able to induce embryonic stem cells to develop into heart muscle cells or insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. The hope is that embryonic stem cells might one day be used to restore or replace failing cells in the human body and perhaps treat a wide range of diseases.

"Embryonic stem cells have a very high potential in medicine," Majumder said. "The critical thing is to learn the mechanisms that could be used to generate a lot of self-renewing embryonic stem cells and be able to differentiate them into various cell types." REST could play a key role in maintaining a steady supply of these cells and in preserving their differentiation capability.

Suppressing MicroRNA-21

In studies using mouse embryonic stem cells, the researchers found that REST disarms a specific microRNA called microRNA-21 or miR-21. MicroRNAs are tiny pieces of RNA that control gene expression by binding to the gene's messenger RNA.

The team found that MiR-21 suppresses embryonic stem cell self-renewal and is associated with a corresponding loss of expression of critical self-renewal regulators, such as Oct4, Nanog, Sox2 and c-Myc. REST counters this by suppressing miR-21 to preserve the cells' self-renewal and pluripotency.

The researchers discovered the roles of REST and miR-21 in a series of experiments using cultured mouse embryonic stem cells in either a self-renewal state or a differentiating state. They found that REST expression was significantly higher in the self-renewal state. Withdrawing REST reduced the stem cells' ability to reproduce themselves and started differentiation -- even when the cells were grown under conditions conducive to self-renewal. Adding REST to differentiating cells maintained their self-renewal.

These experiments also revealed that REST is bound to the gene chromatin of a set of microRNAs with the potential to target self-renewal genes. REST controls transcription of 11 microRNAs.

REST Implicated in Pediatric Brain Cancer

Previous laboratory research suggests that the qualities that make REST beneficial in stem cell production and pluripotency may contribute to the development of medulloblastoma, an aggressive type of children's brain tumor. Medulloblastomas are believed to develop from undifferentiated neural stem cells in the external granule layer of the cerebellum.

In earlier research, Majumder's group at M. D. Anderson discovered that about half of these tumors overexpress REST, which is not found in most neural cells. "We found that REST is a critical factor in this group of children's brain tumors," Majumder said, "and that its major function is to keep a group of specific brain stem cells, or progenitor cells, in a state of stemness."

The researchers hypothesize that by maintaining the neural stem cells' 'stemness,' REST prevents their differentiation into normal and distinct types of cells, leading instead to tumor formation. The M. D. Anderson scientists are now exploring whether microRNAs might also play a role in medulloblastomas.

Understanding REST function has applications in both medulloblastoma and embryonic stem cell biology. "Just as blocking REST function has therapeutic potential in medulloblastoma, blocking REST function to allow for differentiation of embryonic stem cells is a potentially critical step in regenerative medicine," Majumder said.

The research reported in Nature was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the Dodie Hawn Fellowship in Cancer Genetics.

Co-authors with Majumder are first author Sanjay K. Singh and Mohamedi N. Kagalwala, both from M. D. Anderson's Department of Cancer Genetics and the Center for Stem Cell and Developmental Biology; Jan Parker-Thornburg from the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology; and Henry Adams from the Department of Cancer Genetics. Majumder is also affiliated with M. D. Anderson's Department of Neuro-Oncology, The Brain Tumor Center, and the Center for Stem Cell and Developmental Biology, as well as the Program in Genes and Development at The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. "Protein Protects Embryonic Stem Cells' Versatility And Self-renewal." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 March 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080323210158.htm>.
University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. (2008, March 24). Protein Protects Embryonic Stem Cells' Versatility And Self-renewal. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080323210158.htm
University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. "Protein Protects Embryonic Stem Cells' Versatility And Self-renewal." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080323210158.htm (accessed December 20, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

The Best Tips to Curb Holiday Carbs

The Best Tips to Curb Holiday Carbs

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) It's hard to resist those delicious but fattening carbs we all crave during the winter months, but there are some ways to stay satisfied without consuming the extra calories. Vanessa Freeman (@VanessaFreeTV) has the details. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sierra Leone Bikers Spread the Message to Fight Ebola

Sierra Leone Bikers Spread the Message to Fight Ebola

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) More than 100 motorcyclists hit the road to spread awareness messages about Ebola. Nearly 7,000 people have now died from the virus, almost all of them in west Africa, according to the World Health Organization. Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Best Protein-Filled Foods to Energize You for the New Year

The Best Protein-Filled Foods to Energize You for the New Year

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) The new year is coming and nothing will energize you more for 2015 than protein-filled foods. Fitness and nutrition expert John Basedow (@JohnBasedow) gives his favorite high protein foods that will help you build muscle, lose fat and have endless energy. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins