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Cancer-killing cells controlled by epigenetic process

Date:
September 23, 2013
Source:
University of Southern California - Health Sciences
Summary:
Natural killer cells are white blood cells that can kill and contain cancer and infectious diseases. Scientists have identified a specific enzyme that controls the development of natural killer cells in the body. Understanding how that enzyme affects the natural killer cell may help focus future drug development in the fight against cancer.

Natural killer (NK) cells in the human body can kill and contain viruses and cancerous tumors, and a new study from the University of Southern California (USC) describes for the first time how those cells can be manipulated by epigenetics. The discovery, detailed in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, paves the way for developing more effective cancer drugs.

"Natural killer cells are very attractive targets for immunotherapy because they are able to kill tumor cells," said Si-Yi Chen, M.D., Ph.D., a faculty member of the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and senior author of the study. "While scientists all around the world are working on developing new drugs using NK cells, none of the drugs in development focuses on epigenetic regulation of the cells. Our study describes how an epigenetic process involving the enzyme MYSM1 plays a critical role in the development of natural killer cells."

Epigenetics involve biochemical changes in the body that directly affect DNA, turning some genes on and turning others off. MYSM1 is an enzyme in the body's immune system that turns genes on and off by modifying proteins called histones embedded in DNA.

Through a series of experiments in mice, Chen and his colleagues demonstrate that MYSM1 is required for natural killer cells to mature and function properly.

"We found that MYSM1 creates access to proteins that enhance gene transcription and, ultimately, the maturation of natural killer cells themselves," said Vijayalakshmi Nandakumar, a Ph.D. student at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and the study's first author. "To date, there are no elaborate reports linking an epigenetic phenomenon to natural killer cell development. More importantly, unlike conventional therapies, NK cell-based therapies have shown to be more effective against metastasis. We believe cancer drugs targeting this pathway could be a viable option for future immunotherapies."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Southern California - Health Sciences. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. V. Nandakumar, Y. Chou, L. Zang, X. F. Huang, S.-Y. Chen. Epigenetic control of natural killer cell maturation by histone H2A deubiquitinase, MYSM1. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2013; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1308888110

Cite This Page:

University of Southern California - Health Sciences. "Cancer-killing cells controlled by epigenetic process." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 September 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130923155536.htm>.
University of Southern California - Health Sciences. (2013, September 23). Cancer-killing cells controlled by epigenetic process. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130923155536.htm
University of Southern California - Health Sciences. "Cancer-killing cells controlled by epigenetic process." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130923155536.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

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