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Rock And Rho: Proteins that help cancer cells groove

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Posted December 27, 2013
Rock And Rho: Proteins that help cancer cells groove
This is a breast cancer cell in normal oxygen conditions. Credit: Daniele Gilkes
Biologists at The Johns Hopkins University have discovered that low oxygen conditions, which often persist inside tumors, are sufficient to initiate a molecular chain of events that transforms breast cancer cells from being rigid and stationery to mobile and invasive. Their evidence, published online in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Dec. 9, underlines the importance of hypoxia-inducible factors in promoting breast cancer metastasis.

“High levels of RhoA and ROCK1 were known to worsen outcomes for breast cancer patients by endowing cancer cells with the ability to move, but the trigger for their production was a mystery,” says Gregg Semenza, M.D., Ph.D., the C. Michael Armstrong Professor of Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and senior author of the article. “We now know that the production of these proteins increases dramatically when breast cancer cells are exposed to low oxygen conditions.”

To move, cancer cells must make many changes to their internal structures, Semenza says. Thin, parallel filaments form throughout the cells, allowing them to contract and cellular “hands” arise, allowing cells to “grab” external surfaces to pull themselves along. The proteins RhoA and ROCK1 are known to be central to the formation of these structures.

Read more at: MedicalXpress

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