'Yin and yang' enzymes evolved over billions of years to protect against cancer

phys.org | 3/14/2019 | Staff
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Researchers at the University of Dundee have made an important discovery about two enzymes that have evolved over billions of years to control many different bodily functions, including playing a critical role in preventing cancer.

The team, led by Dr. Adrian Saurin from the University's School of Medicine, investigated the enzymes PP1 and PP2A which were known to be vital to the process of cell division, although the precise role they played has puzzled scientists until now.

Cell - Division - Mitosis - Parent - Cell

Cell division, also known as mitosis, sees a parent cell divide into two daughter cells containing the same DNA content. If this process goes wrong, and the DNA is not partitioned equally, then diseases such as cancer can arise.

To safeguard against these errors, the cell uses two classes of enzymes, known as kinases and phosphatases, to monitor division and switch signals on and off at certain times. Although the kinases that turn signals on are well understood, much less is known about the phosphatases that switch them off.

Dr - Saurin - Processes - Cell - Division

Dr. Saurin explained, "There are two major processes in cell division that make sure your chromosomes segregate properly and if either of these go wrong then it can give rise to cancer, so understanding them is critical.

"It's been known for some time that PP1 and PP2A control these processes differently, but what wasn't clear was how they managed to do this."

Dr - Saurin - Team - Tricks - Enzymes

To investigate this further Dr. Saurin's team deployed genetic tricks to switch these enzymes in the cell and what they found surprised them at first.

"If we removed either one of these enzymes, then we could make things normal again by putting the other in its place. In fact, the closer we looked the more similar these enzymes appeared to be," continued Dr. Saurin.

Enzymes

"That was puzzling because if these enzymes were so similar, then why had they...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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