Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Chemical tags likely to affect metabolism, cancer development

Date:
February 19, 2010
Source:
University of North Carolina School of Medicine
Summary:
New research suggests that the addition or removal of a certain type of chemical tag -- called an acetyl group -- onto metabolic enzymes plays a key role in how cellular metabolism is regulated. The finding gives researchers vital clues to understand how normal cells respond to nutrient changes and how the process by which normal cells turn cancerous, and could one day lead to new drugs that starve cancer cells into submission.

This is Yue Xiong, Ph.D., of University of North Carolina School of Medicine.
Credit: UNC Medical Center News Office

It is not unusual to hear people blame their metabolism after gaining a few pounds. But changes in metabolism -- the process that shapes how our bodies turn food into energy -- can have much more sinister effects than making it hard to fit into your favorite jeans.

In fact, differences in metabolic rates are known to exist between normal cells and tumor cells, though the mechanism behind it is unclear. Now new research from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill suggests that the addition or removal of a certain type of chemical tag -- called an acetyl group -- onto metabolic enzymes plays a key role in how cellular metabolism is regulated.

The finding, which will appear in the February 19 issue of the journal Science, gives researchers vital clues to understand how normal cells respond to nutrient changes and how the process by which normal cells turn cancerous, and could one day lead to new drugs that starve cancer cells into submission.

"We have discovered an entirely new layer of control of metabolism," said Yue Xiong, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry and biophysics and a member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. "This process -- the acetylation of metabolic enzymes -- appears to be highly conserved during evolution and very dynamic, which makes it an ideal target for future drug development. Now if we can identify which enzyme or enzymes are responsible for the difference in metabolism between normal and tumor cells, then we could have new targets for the treating cancer patients."

Xiong is a senior author of the study along with Kun-Liang Guan, professor of pharmacology, at the University of California, San Diego.

Almost all previous studies on acetylation have focused on the proteins in the nucleus, where acetyl tags regulate how tightly the DNA's genetic code is packaged. But Xiong and Guan started this study with the hypothesis that acetylation must also play a role in the other half of the cell, the cytoplasm.

So they separated the nucleus and the cytoplasm of primary liver cells, and then took a chemical census of the cytoplasm's contents using a technology called mass spectroscopy. They identified approximately a thousand new proteins that are acetylated, greatly expanding the previously recognized repertoire of fifty.

At first, the researchers were overwhelmed by such a large number of proteins to study, said Xiong. But then they began notice a pattern -- almost every metabolic enzyme was acetylated, presumably because their starting material was liver, an organ rich in metabolic activity.

"We think that acetylation is likely to play a very extensive role in regulation of many different cellular processes, not just metabolism," said Xiong.

Xiong and his colleagues looked at the acetylation of one enzyme from each of the four major metabolic pathways. They found that by altering the metabolic fuels that feed into these pathways they could alter the level of acetylation.

In addition, the researchers discovered that blocking acetylation chemically or genetically affected these metabolic enzymes in a number of different ways, either by stimulating its activity, inhibiting it, or degrading the protein itself. They suspect that acetylation is important for coordinating not only the players within a metabolic pathway but also between different pathways.

The next step is to take their finding in normal cells and see how it can inform their study of tumor cells. The researchers are in the process of looking at each metabolic enzyme, one-by-one, to see which one displays the most disparate acetylation patterns between normal and cancer cells. They will then try to use the very same proteins that tack on or pull off those acetyl groups -- called acetylases or deacetylases, respectively -- to modify acetylation and thwart cancer development.

The bulk of the research was carried out by a group of young graduate students in a research lab at Fudan University in Shanghai that Drs. Xiong and Guan co-direct and involves extensive collaboration by several different groups. The UNC research was funded in part by the National Institutes of Health. Study co-authors from UNC include Li Zhou, Yaxue Zeng and Xian Chen.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of North Carolina School of Medicine. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of North Carolina School of Medicine. "Chemical tags likely to affect metabolism, cancer development." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 February 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100218141758.htm>.
University of North Carolina School of Medicine. (2010, February 19). Chemical tags likely to affect metabolism, cancer development. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 27, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100218141758.htm
University of North Carolina School of Medicine. "Chemical tags likely to affect metabolism, cancer development." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100218141758.htm (accessed August 27, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Super Healthful Fruits and Vegetables: Which Are Best?

Super Healthful Fruits and Vegetables: Which Are Best?

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) We all know that it is important to eat our fruits and vegetables but do you know which ones are the best for you? Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Panda Might Have Faked Pregnancy To Get Special Treatment

Panda Might Have Faked Pregnancy To Get Special Treatment

Newsy (Aug. 27, 2014) A panda in China showed pregnancy symptoms that disappeared after two months of observation. One theory: Her pseudopregnancy was a ploy for perks. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Firefighters Rescue Puppy Stuck in Tire

Raw: Firefighters Rescue Puppy Stuck in Tire

AP (Aug. 26, 2014) It took Houston firefighters more than an hour to free a puppy who got its head stuck in a tire. (Aug. 26) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Have You Ever Been 'Sleep Drunk?' 1 in 7 Has

Have You Ever Been 'Sleep Drunk?' 1 in 7 Has

Newsy (Aug. 26, 2014) A study published in the journal "Neurology" interviewed more than 19,000 people and found 15 percent suffer from being "sleep drunk." Video provided by Newsy
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:
from the past week

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