New mechanism for cancer progression discovered by UNC and Harvard researchers

The protein Ras plays an important role in cellular growth control. Researchers have focused on the protein because mutations in its gene are found in more than 30 percent of all cancers, making it the most prevalent human oncogene.

University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and Harvard researchers have discovered an alternative mechanism for activating Ras that does not require mutation or hormonal stimulus. In healthy cells, Ras transmits hormone signals into the cell that prompt responses such as cell growth and the development of organs and tissues. A mutation on the RAS gene can chronically activate those signals, leading to tumor initiation and progression.

Lead researcher Rachael Baker, a PhD candidate doing joint work in the labs of Henrik Dohlman, PhD, professor of pharmacology and vice chair of biochemistry and biophysics and Sharon Campbell, PhD, professor of biochemistry and biophysics at UNC, developed a novel method to modify Ras with ubiquitin and then subsequently characterized how ubiquitin modification can lead to Ras activation. Research was done in conjunction with Brian Kuhlman and Steven Lewis in the UNC Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics.

Campbell Lab

Lineberger News by William Davis