- Writer: Kathleen Phillips, 979-845-2872, email@example.com
- Contact: Dr. Xiuren Zhang, 979-845-1012, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Dr. Jean-Philippe Pellois, 979-845-0101, email@example.com
COLLEGE STATION — Two scientists with Texas A&M AgriLife Research will share almost $400,000 for cancer research granted by the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas.
The research institute was established in 2007 to “expedite innovation in cancer research and product development and to enhance access to evidence-based prevention programs throughout the state.”
Dr. Xiuren Zhang’s grant for $199,958 is for “Exploring Geminivirus-Encoded Suppressor of Histone Methyltransferases as an Anticancer Drug.” Zhang is an AgriLife Research biochemist and geneticist in College Station.
Zhang said histone methyltransferases and demethylases are often altered in cancers, and countering these processes is an active area for therapeutic intervention.
His laboratory recently discovered how a tiny viral protein enables the infection of a complex plant — a finding that could help understand how viral diseases such as cancer spread in animals and humans.
He said histone methyltransferases and demethylases are often altered in cancers, and countering these processes is an active area for therapeutic intervention.
Zhang will further explore and engineer the potent suppressor protein that specifically inhibits eukaryotic histone methyltransferases to control cell proliferation and the formation of tumors in human cells.
“The approach proposed in the study is innovative in that it applies a novel, biologically derived inhibitor, which may prove more effective than artificial inhibitors,” he said. “With this funding, I hope to develop a new cell biology tool with the potential to facilitate our understanding of methyltransferases and histone methylation in gene regulation and cancer biology. The ultimate goal is to provide a powerful toolkit for studying and perhaps fixing epigenetic changes in cancer.”
The grant to Dr. Jean-Philippe Pellois, for “Quantitative Mapping of Intracellular Protein-Protein Interactomes in Healthy and Cancerous Cells” totals $198,753. Pellois is an AgriLife Research biochemist in College Station.
“Cells can become cancerous when the function of certain proteins becomes dysregulated,” Pellois said. “These proteins carried out their molecular function by binding to other intracellular partners. To date, understanding how this network of interactions change when proteins become dysregulated is a challenge, because we currently lack the technologies that would permit to probe interactions networks directly inside cells.”
Pellois said the grant will help his team “develop a radically novel technology that addresses this challenge by delivering proteins modified with affinity labels directly inside cells. Affinity labels can leave a chemical trace on the protein’s interaction partners and these partners can then be analyzed and quantified.
“This novel technology is only now feasible because of the recent progress we have made in finding efficient means of introducing proteins into live cells. Building on this success, we propose that our approach is plausible and of great potential impact,” Pellois added. “In particular, by mapping protein interaction networks inside cells and by monitoring how these networks change under various stimuli, we expect that this new platform will lead to powerful ways of monitoring the molecular causes of cancers.
“In addition, we envision that this technology will be useful to decipher physiological versus pathological interaction networks, which in turn should contribute to the identification of new drug targets – by comparing non-cancerous and cancerous cells – and to a better understanding of how anti-cancer drugs impact intracellular protein-protein interactions – by comparing cells treated with or without drugs.”
Pellois said it also should be useful as a prognosis tool by identifying protein-protein interactions that can be used as predictive markers for drug resistance.