Plants have provided a new avenue in curbing tumor growth. On this occasion, it doesn’t involve miracle species or the like, but rather the results obtained by the University of Cordoba BIO301 research team called “Epigenetics and DNA Repair.” This research team is affiliated with the Maimonides Institute of Biomedical Research and is led by Genetics Professor María Teresa Roldán Arjona.
This team has been able to stably express a plant protein in cancer cells, altering the expression of genes that cause tumor growth. This project, published in the journal Epigenetics, was headed by researchers Teresa Morales Ruiz and Maria Victoria García Ortiz, who have done laboratory work with colon tumor cells and used genomic analyses on a large scale.
According to the authors, this is “a protein which could be used as a tool to erase molecular tags that silence genes. In this way, tumor behavior in cancer cells could be partly reverted.” These plant enzymes are the first to act on a biochemical pathway that directly eliminates these tags in the DNA that turns off or silences the genes. The final result is that the DNA is free from those marks. In humans, the same process has not been described, though similar pathways exist. These pathways include more reactions and the marks are erased indirectly. Hence, the key point of this project was “using the activity of these plant enzymes so as to reprogram human cancer DNA.”
The results obtained by the University of Cordoba research team open up new options to study gene expression not only in pathologies such as cancer but also in normal situations.
Publication: Teresa Morales-Ruiz, et al., “DNA methylation reprogramming of human cancer cells by expression of a plant 5-methylcytosine DNA glycosylase,” Epigenetics, 2018; doi:10.1080/15592294.2017.1414128