'Cell junctions' respond to environmental signals

December 12, 1999

WASHINGTON, D.C. --- Cells have developed a variety of mechanisms for coupling themselves to their neighbors and to their surrounding extracellular world. These so-called 3cell junctions2 are made from many different types of proteins that assemble into structures called gap junctions, tight junctions, adherens junctions, desmosomes and hemidesmosomes, each with a different function.

According to Kathleen Green, professor of pathology at Northwestern University Medical School and a member of The Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University, it is now clear that intercellular junctions are not simply things that hold cells together but, rather, dynamic structures that respond to environmental signals by breaking and reforming.

In fact, cell junctions are themselves involved in the propagation of signals that control cell growth and motility that contribute to metastasis, the most devastating and life-threatening part of the cancer process.

Green will co-chair a minisymposium on the role of each of these steps in cancer progression at today's meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology. Her co-chair is Margaret Wheelock, of the University of Toledo, Toledo, Ohio. The co-chairs also will present new findings at the symposium.

The symposium will include a description, using the powerful genetic model system Drosophila, of the discovery of a new tumor suppressor gene called scribble, which is a component of intercellular septate junctions. Mutations in tumor suppressor genes lead to uncontrolled cell growth and, consequently, tumor formation. Genes that are first discovered in fruit flies often lead the way to way to important advances in our understanding of human diseases, including cancer.

Another presentation will focus on how a cancer-causing oncogene can alter the communicating function of cellular channels called gap junctions. Others will describe modulation of cadherin-based junctions called adherens junctions and desmosomes, and, for example, how the different properties of cadherins and their associated proteins might dictate whether a breast cancer cell will spread.

The final presentation will be on a new and surprising discovery about how a molecule that tethers cells to extracellular matrix can interact with an actin-binding protein found at cell-cell junctions and even the nucleus, and thus might have unexpected regulatory functions in controlling cell motility.
(Editor's note: Dr. Green can be reached during the ASCB meeting (Dec. 11-15) at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, Washington, D.C., at 202- 582-1234 and following the meeting at kgreen@nwu.edu )

Northwestern University

Related Cancer Articles from Brightsurf:

New blood cancer treatment works by selectively interfering with cancer cell signalling
University of Alberta scientists have identified the mechanism of action behind a new type of precision cancer drug for blood cancers that is set for human trials, according to research published in Nature Communications.

UCI researchers uncover cancer cell vulnerabilities; may lead to better cancer therapies
A new University of California, Irvine-led study reveals a protein responsible for genetic changes resulting in a variety of cancers, may also be the key to more effective, targeted cancer therapy.

Breast cancer treatment costs highest among young women with metastic cancer
In a fight for their lives, young women, age 18-44, spend double the amount of older women to survive metastatic breast cancer, according to a large statewide study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Cancer mortality continues steady decline, driven by progress against lung cancer
The cancer death rate declined by 29% from 1991 to 2017, including a 2.2% drop from 2016 to 2017, the largest single-year drop in cancer mortality ever reported.

Stress in cervical cancer patients associated with higher risk of cancer-specific mortality
Psychological stress was associated with a higher risk of cancer-specific mortality in women diagnosed with cervical cancer.

Cancer-sniffing dogs 97% accurate in identifying lung cancer, according to study in JAOA
The next step will be to further fractionate the samples based on chemical and physical properties, presenting them back to the dogs until the specific biomarkers for each cancer are identified.

Moffitt Cancer Center researchers identify one way T cell function may fail in cancer
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers have discovered a mechanism by which one type of immune cell, CD8+ T cells, can become dysfunctional, impeding its ability to seek and kill cancer cells.

More cancer survivors, fewer cancer specialists point to challenge in meeting care needs
An aging population, a growing number of cancer survivors, and a projected shortage of cancer care providers will result in a challenge in delivering the care for cancer survivors in the United States if systemic changes are not made.

New cancer vaccine platform a potential tool for efficacious targeted cancer therapy
Researchers at the University of Helsinki have discovered a solution in the form of a cancer vaccine platform for improving the efficacy of oncolytic viruses used in cancer treatment.

American Cancer Society outlines blueprint for cancer control in the 21st century
The American Cancer Society is outlining its vision for cancer control in the decades ahead in a series of articles that forms the basis of a national cancer control plan.

Read More: Cancer News and Cancer Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.