Cell division is an important process in the body, but cancer causes cells to divide too much, often with fatal results,media New Atlas reported. Now, researchers from the University of Copenhagen have discovered a protein that plays a key role in the process, meaning it could help find new cancer treatments.
Cell division consists of two different stages. In the first stage, known as Phase S, the DNA of the cell is completely copied. Then there is filament division, and the cells are split in two, and each new cell gets a complete copy of the original DNA. But a few years ago, a new step in the process was discovered. If Phase S doesnot go according to plan, cells can replicate DNA through filament-splitting DNA synthesis (MiDAS) to prepare for division.
In most cases, healthy cells do not have MiDAS— S period is usually sufficient. However, it has been found that cancer uses MiDAS heavily because of the amount of replication “pressure” it is subjected to during its S period. This makes it an attractive target for cancer treatment. After all, if MiDAS is interrupted, the cells will die.
So for the new study, researchers in Copenhagen set out to study MiDAS further. They experimented with bone cancer, cervical cancer and colon cancer cells to monitor which proteins played a role in MiDAS. One of the proteins, called RTEL1, has caught their attention as a promoter of the process.
“We believe that the function of this RTEL1 is critical for any cancer cell that relies on MiDAS, and according to our knowledge, more than 80 percent of the known cancer types are dependent on MiDAS,” said study co-author Liu Ying. “So we can use this to design drugs that inhibit RTEL1 and hopefully selectively kill cancer cells.” “
However, there is a complex factor — the team also found that RTEL1 plays an equally important role in the division of healthy cells, preventing DNA damage and chromosomal instability during phase S. The team says future work will look at the two effects of the protein and whether it is related. By studying how RTEL1 promotes fission division of cancer cells, it may lead to new clues that focus only on cancer cells rather than healthy ones, which is a new clue.
The study was published in the journal Nature-Structural and Molecular Biology.