LONDON, Sept. 26 (Xinhua) -- The mood changes of a "Jekyll-and-Hyde" protein, which sometimes boosts tumour cell growth and at other times suppresses it, have been explained in a new study by an international research team.
The researchers in Britain, with collaborators in Singapore and the U.S., found that the protein E2F is inextricably linked to cancer. It is normally tightly controlled in the cell cycle, and help removes damaged cells, but in most cancer cells the processes E2F oversees go awry so that it keeps cells growing.
According to researchers, E2F is an important switch that determines cell fate, and it's this dual Jekyll-and-Hyde nature of E2F that the researchers have been able to explain for the first time.
The researchers showed that two enzymes compete to attach a molecular "flag" on different parts of the E2F protein. The flag in one position sees E2F act to cause cell death and the same flag in another position see E2F boost cell growth and proliferation.
In cancer cells, E2F gets stuck with the flag boosting growth and division, helping drive the tumour's growth. The researchers identified another protein in the cell which looks for the presence of this flag.
"Blocking this protein means the devil's whispers never get heard and E2F doesn't transform into Mr Hyde," Professor Nick La Thangue of Oxford University, who led the work, said that: "Instead, E2F switches over to cell-death mode and the cancer cells die out, which provides a new and very important approach to developing new types of cancer drugs."