Scientists from the University of Hyderabad (UoH) probing HPIP, a known ‘culprit gene’ in the development of cancers, have stumbled upon evidence that promises to turn it into a key target in developing potential drugs in future.

They have researched its protein structure and understood its key role in cell division. The over expression of HPIP Gene is responsible for the growth of cancerous tumours, they state.

In 2015, the same research group led by Bramanandam Manavathi, was the first to establish the role of HPIP Gene in the development of breast cancers, which is widely prevalent in India.

Subsequently, other research groups around the world have expanded its significance in other cancers of the liver, brain, stomach, etc, says Bramanandam.

The present work by the research team from the Department of Biochemistry, UoH, has been published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry (JBC).

The researchers feel that this fresh knowledge will help in the development of a candidate drug that could target the culprit gene and control or cure certain cancers in the near future.

“While HPIP’s role in cancer is well established, to consider it as a potential novel therapeutic target in cancer, its protein structure has to be unveiled, which might motivate us to identify the inhibitors for HPIP. We are partially successful in that direction, as we have found that it is a dimeric protein and its dimerisation is important for its functions (unpublished data),” Bramanandam explained.

Therefore, the focus of our research is to identify the small molecular synthetic inhibitors that block its dimerisation, its oncogenic functions and, thus, cure cancer, he said.

Cells & human body

The human body has several trillion cells. Each and every cell undergoes cell division and duplication of cells, to maintain our body system.

In normal cells, cell division proceeds through a series of precisely timed and carefully regulated stages of growth (G1 phase), DNA synthesis (S phase), preparatory phase for division (G2), chromosome segregation (M-mitosis), and division (cytokinesis) that produces two identical daughter cells.

A well-regulated mechanism controls the cell division. Uncontrollable cell division leads to cancer.

Studying the defect or role of proteins in each phase of the cell cycle is an emerging area in the field of cancer, to control cancer cell growth.

“Our main study focuses on the M phase, where chromosome separation and distribution to pre-daughter cell occurs, and cytokinesis, where cell division takes place to give rise to two daughter cells”, the UoH says.

“By lowering HPIP production using the viral transduction method, we discovered that there is a chromosome segregation defect with multiple spindle formation and chromosomal abnormalities, resulting in defective cytokinesis and delay in M phase transition.”

The UoH team has taken up further research.

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