The discovery of a process crucial to cell growth regulation could improve understanding of cancer and ageing
MKRN1 plays an important role in the complex process of regulating cell death. Normally, chromosomes are capped by a strand of DNA repeat units called a telomere. Each time a cell divides within the body the telomere gets shorter, and once it reaches a minimum length, the cell can no longer divide. This natural process is believed by many scientists to be central to the ageing process.
In cancer cells, telomere shortening is alleviated by the enzyme telomerase, which promotes growth and can lead to uncontrolled cell division. MKRN1 regulates growth by attaching a flag to the telomerase, marking it for destruction within the cell.
’If we can manipulate the MKRN1 in the body of cancer patients, we might make malignant cells die,’ says lead author In Kwon Chung, professor of biology at Yonsei University, Korea.
Future work will focus on how MKRN1 could be used as a therapeutic target for checking the uncontrolled division of tumour cells.
J H Kim et al, Genes Dev., 2005, 19, 776