Researchers describe a new genetic program that converts static cells into mobile invasive cells

December 15, 2011

Researchers at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona) have identified the gene GATA 6 as responsible for epithelial cells -which group together and are static- losing adhesion and moving towards a new site. This process, which is common to developing organisms, is very similar to one that occurs in metastasis, when tumour cells escape from the original tumour and invade new tissue. "This process explains why Gata 6 is found in cancers of the liver, pancreas and colon, thus allowing tumour cells to acquire metastatic properties", stresses Jordi Casanova, CSIC professor and head of the Drosophila Morphogenesis Group at IRB Barcelona, where the study has been conducted. The journal Developmental Cell is to publish the results of this study this week.

In addition, Gata 6 triggers a genetic programme that favours the survival and adaptation of cells in new tissue. It also promotes the expression of some enzymes, the so-called metalloproteases, which degrade the cellular matrix, thus allowing cells to migrate and enter new tissue. Furthermore, Gata 6 induces the gene Forkhead, which is a survival factor. "When cells start migrating they are subjected to many changes and to stress, and in these adverse conditions many can die. This gene protects them against death", explains Kira Campbell, "Juan de la Cierva" post-doctoral fellow with Casanova's lab and first author of the article. Tumour cells hold metalloproteases and Forkhead.

From the Drosophila fly to cancer

Once again the small fly D. melanogaster, used in developmental studies, has shed light on processes linked to cancer. Casanova's team, which specializes in morphogenesis, has revealed the mechanism by which epithelial cells transform into mesenchymatic cells during gut development in fly embryos. The Drosophila gut is an endodermal organ, as is the colon, the liver and the pancreas. "What we have discovered is that the programme that we have characterized for the first time is specific for endodermal tissues", explains Casanova.

Having identified the genetic programme that favours this transformation in Drosophila, Casanova contacted Eduard Batlle's lab, which focuses on colorectal cancer and is also at IRB Barcelona. The aim was to test whether the homologue gene in mammal cells had the capacity to produce this same change. Their studies showed that this gene homologue, GATA 6, is conserved and confers cells the same capacities as those observed in the fly. "We started off with a strictly basic research line in development and have ended up with a collaboration with the Oncology Programme to address possible implications in cancer", says Casanova, emphasizing the multidisciplinary nature of the study. His lab now wishes to turn its attention to other members of the GATA family. "For example, pancreatic cancer has very poor prognosis. Our research can contribute to furthering understanding of the genetic bases of endodermal tumours and may speed up the detection of possible therapeutic targets".
-end-
Reference article:

"Specific GATA factors act as conserved inducers of an endodermal-EMT". Kyra Campbell1, Gavin Whissell, Xavier Franch-Marro, Eduard Batlle, Jordi Casanova

Dev Cell (2011): doi:10.1016/j.devcel.2011.10.005

Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona)

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.