Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Discoveries in mitochondria open new field of cancer research

Date:
June 21, 2011
Source:
Virginia Commonwealth University
Summary:
Researchers have revealed novel mechanisms in mitochondria that have implications for cancer as well as many other age-related diseases such as Parkinson's disease, heart disease and hypertension. This discovery has pioneered the formation of a whole new field within epigenetics research ripe with possibilities of developing future gene therapies to treat cancer and age-associated diseases.

Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University Massey Cancer Center have revealed novel mechanisms in mitochondria that have implications for cancer as well as many other age-related diseases such as Parkinson's disease, heart disease and hypertension. This discovery has pioneered the formation of a whole new field within epigenetics research ripe with possibilities of developing future gene therapies to treat cancer and age-associated diseases.

Related Articles


Shirley M. Taylor, Ph.D., researcher at VCU Massey Cancer Center and associate professor in the VCU Department of Microbiology and Immunology at VCU School of Medicine, was a graduate student when her research helped establish the field of epigenetics (epigenetics refers to the process that controls which genes get expressed in the nucleus of a cell, ultimately determining that cell's biological characteristics). Now decades later, Taylor and her colleagues have further expanded the field of epigenetics into a new area of research they created by discovering enzymes in mitochondria that were previously known to exist only in nuclei.

In mammals, all cells have two distinct genomes, which include all of an organism's hereditary information. One set exists in the nucleus while the other exists in the mitochondrion, the energy generator of the cell.

Published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Taylor's study found two DNA modifications in the mitochondrial genome: methylated cytosine, known to function in the nucleus by "silencing" the expression of certain genes; and hydroxymethyl cytosine, which removes the silencing mark imposed by the cytosine methylation.

Together, these modifications act like a genetic on/off switch in a process known as DNA methylation. Taylor's team also showed that the enzyme responsible for DNA methylation was present in mammalian mitochondria. The presence of these DNA modifications leads the researchers to believe that a system of gene control similar to what occurs in the nucleus is present in mitochondria, functioning to ensure the correct levels of proteins needed for proper energy generation.

"In diseases such as cancer, epigenetic control is lost," says Taylor. "Genes that should be switched on are switched off and vice versa, leading to uncontrolled growth. Our research indicates that errors in gene expression could be unfolding in mitochondria, possibly contributing to loss of mitochondrial function typical of cancer and a host of other age-related diseases."

Taylor's team is currently working to force into mitochondria more of the enzyme responsible for forming the silencing mark, and to identify enzymes responsible for removing it. This should allow the researchers to observe whether these marks impact mitochondrial ability to generate energy. The researchers are also comparing the amount of DNA methylation in diseased cells versus healthy cells to determine whether mitochondrial gene expression plays a role in various diseases.

"Many diseases that afflict the elderly seem to have defects in mitochondrial function," says Taylor. "We are working to determine whether epigenetic control is a factor contributing to these defects. If so, drugs known to impact gene expression in the nucleus may be useful in reversing damage caused by improper gene expression in mitochondria."

Taylor collaborated on this study with Richard G. Moran, Ph.D., associate director for basic research at VCU Massey Cancer Center and professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at VCU School of Medicine. Other collaborators include doctoral students Lisa S. Shock, Prashant V. Thakkar and Erica J. Peterson from the VCU Department of Microbiology and Immunology. The study was partially funded by the National Cancer Institute and by a pilot project award from Massey.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Virginia Commonwealth University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. L. S. Shock, P. V. Thakkar, E. J. Peterson, R. G. Moran, S. M. Taylor. DNA methyltransferase 1, cytosine methylation, and cytosine hydroxymethylation in mammalian mitochondria. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2011; 108 (9): 3630 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1012311108

Cite This Page:

Virginia Commonwealth University. "Discoveries in mitochondria open new field of cancer research." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 June 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110620161306.htm>.
Virginia Commonwealth University. (2011, June 21). Discoveries in mitochondria open new field of cancer research. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110620161306.htm
Virginia Commonwealth University. "Discoveries in mitochondria open new field of cancer research." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110620161306.htm (accessed October 31, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Friday, October 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Fauci Says Ebola Risk in US "essentially Zero"

Fauci Says Ebola Risk in US "essentially Zero"

AP (Oct. 30, 2014) NIAID Director Anthony Fauci said the risk of Ebola becoming an epidemic in the U.S. is essentially zero Thursday at the Washington Ideas Forum. He also said an Ebola vaccine will be tested in West Africa in the next few months. (Oct. 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Nurse Defies Ebola Quarantine With Bike Ride

Nurse Defies Ebola Quarantine With Bike Ride

AP (Oct. 30, 2014) A nurse who vowed to defy Maine's voluntary quarantine for health care workers who treated Ebola patients followed through on her promise Thursday, leaving her home for an hour-long bike ride. (Oct. 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Pot-Infused Edibles Raise Concerns in Colorado

Pot-Infused Edibles Raise Concerns in Colorado

AFP (Oct. 30, 2014) Colorado may have legalized marijuana for recreational use, but the debate around the decision still continues, with a recent - failed - attempt to ban cannabis-infused edibles. Duration: 01:53 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
British Navy Ship Arrives in Sierra Leone With Ebola Aid

British Navy Ship Arrives in Sierra Leone With Ebola Aid

AFP (Oct. 30, 2014) The British ship RFA ARGUS arrived in Sierra Leone to deliver supplies and equipment to help the fight against Ebola. Duration: 00:42 Video provided by AFP
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