Wednesday, Nov 24, 2021
• Greg Pederson :
A biologist at The University of Texas at Arlington is part of a team which has identified a gene’s key role in a novel cell death phenomenon.
Piya Ghose, UTA assistant professor of biology, co-authored a collaborative study which was published in the October 15 edition of the journal Development titled “BLMP-1 promotes developmental cell death in C. elegans by timely repression of ced-9 transcription.” The team described their findings that a gene that represses gene expression and is a master regulator of the fate of cells is important in the process of novel cell death.
While doing postdoctoral work, Ghose discovered a cell-killing phenomenon in the roundworm C. elegans, which she named “compartmentalized cell elimination,” or CCE. The main focus of her lab is to better understand this process in relationship to neurodegeneration and cancer. C. elegans has many genes, including those involved in cell death, that are similar to genes in humans. A major feature of tumors is resistance to cancer therapies arising from mutations in genes that are involved in programmed cell death, also called apoptosis.
“CCE is a fascinating and still mysterious and new phenomenon,” Ghose said. “It is very exciting to find a new gene important to this process that has a human counterpart associated with cancer. This finding helps validate CCE in worms as a good system to study the fundamentals of cancer biology. I believe we will learn a lot from the system moving forward.”
The study focused on the C. elegans tail-spike cell, which is required for embryonic tail formation. Once the roundworm’s tail forms, the C. elegans protein BLMP-1, a zinc-finger transcription factor similar to mouse BLIMP-1, is a key regulator of tail-spike cell death. BLMP-1 is expressed in the tail-spike cell and functions there for cell demise through CCE.
The human version of the gene in the study, B lymphocyte-induced maturation protein 1 (BLIMP-1), has been found to be elevated in some types of tumors, such as glioblastoma (a malignant tumor affecting the brain or spine) and breast cancer tissue. Other studies have reported that BLIMP-1 also acts as a tumor suppressor of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL), the most common type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
“Our results, therefore, identify roles for developmental timing genes in cell-death initiation, and suggest conservation of these functions,” the authors wrote.
Ghose co-authored the Development article with scientists at National Taiwan University in Taipei, Taiwan, and the Laboratory of Developmental Genetics at The Rockefeller University in New York, NY. The project was supported by a Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) recruitment grant.
Ghose is also studying CCE in C. elegans as part of a separate project being funded by a five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health.
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