Researchers ID protein interaction behind metastasis

Volume 6, Issue 3, 2017


Their work shows that there's a direct interaction between focal adhesion kinase and myosin.

Photograph of Alexander Meves, M.D.

Alexander Meves, M.D.

Researchers at Mayo Clinic have identified an interaction among proteins that allows cancer cells to grow and metastasize.

The discovery about the protein interaction may play a role in developing a better understanding of how tumors grow in a variety of malignancies, including breast cancer, prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer, colon cancer lung cancer and skin cancer.

Their work was published in the April 2017 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"In our paper, we identify a direct interaction between focal adhesion kinase and myosin that drives the production of secreted cancer-promoting proteins," said Alexander Meves, M.D., a Mayo Clinic dermatologist in Rochester, Minnesota.

Cancer cells use these secreted proteins to create stiff, insoluble scaffolds that inhibit anti-tumor immunity and support tumor growth and metastasis.

"Cancer cells are very responsive to their environment and try to adapt and fit in," Dr. Meves explained. "Focal adhesion kinase provides these cells with input about their environment, specifically the rigidity or elasticity of the environment."

Myosin acts like a motor that transfers focal adhesion kinase from the cell membrane to its nucleus, Dr. Meves said. Once focal adhesion kinase and myosin interact, focal adhesion kinase is shuttled to the cell nucleus to help the cell adapt to its environment through gene transcription, he said.

"Our hope is that based on the structural data presented in our paper, it may be possible to develop drugs that inhibit cancer progression by blocking the interaction of focal adhesion kinase with other proteins," Dr. Meves said.