Researchers have discovered a new way in which the protein, eukaryotic initiation factor 4E (eIF4E), acts upon cancer-promoting messenger RNA molecules.

This result has finally solved almost a decade-long scientific mystery which now may lead to new, highly specific cancer treatments that will act only on growth promoting cells as opposed to all cells in a whole.

UC Davis assistant Professor- Christopher Fraser said, “This protein is one of the most important initiation factors in this cellular pathway, and there is a lot of energy in the cell that goes into regulating the level and availability of it”.

In the cancer-promoting variants, a highly knotted and ‘complicated’ region at the start of the strand must be unwound before a ribosome can bind and begin translating the genetic code into the amino acids that build our cellular proteins.

Experts say that usually that knotted region prevents most of the ribosome’s from starting the process, so cancer-promoting mRNAs aren`t translated effectively. But when high levels of eIF4E are present the 4E binds to a complex that activates another protein, 4A, which then is able to unwind the knot and translate the genetic code into proteins that can trigger tumour growth.

Usually that knotted region prevents most of the ribosome’s from starting the process, so cancer- promoting mRNAs aren`t translated effectively. But when high levels of eIF4E are present the 4E binds to a complex that activates another protein, 4A, which then is able to unwind the knot and translate the genetic code into proteins that can trigger tumor growth.

She said that it is necessary to maintain an interaction between 4E and the complex containing 4A in order to complete the unwinding.

Feoktistova said, “If you lose this connection, you stall the complex”.

She said that but if you have a lot of 4E floating in the cell, and the complex loses a 4E, another one can be easily found.

The study has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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