CARD: Three molecules can play important role in cancers and neurological diseases

24. September 2018

New research from the DNRF’s Center for Autophagy, Recirculation and Disease (CARD) shows how three molecules can play a crucial part in the development of neurological diseases and cancers. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

The body’s cells have a special ability to repair themselves and get rid of broken components. One of these processes is called mitophagy, whereby the cell eliminates damaged mitochondria that normally function as the body’s energy generators. Mitophagy is essential for keeping a cell healthy. If the damaged mitochondria aren’t eliminated, several types of cancer and neurological diseases may develop.

In a new study from the basic research center CARD at the Danish Cancer Society, the research team shows how three specific protein molecules, called AMBRA1, HUWE1, and the IKK-alpha-protein, play a central role in the regulation of mitophagy.

“The way in which the three proteins influence each other leads to the elimination of the damaged mitochondria. The chain reaction begins when the IKK-alpha protein changes the structure of the AMBRA1 by adding another chemical group to the molecule. AMBRA1 then recruits HUWE1, which places itself on the damaged proteins, which leads to the mitophagy,” explained Professor Francesco Cecconi, deputy director at CARD.

It is not the first time that researchers have made a connection between mitophagy and neurological diseases, but previous research focused on other proteins. The study from CARD thus brings new, important knowledge to the field with the discovery of the role that the three protein molecules play.

“Using this new knowledge, we may be able to develop medicine and find new treatments for both a series of cancer forms and neurological diseases. At the same time, we have such detailed descriptions of the different steps of the process in which these three molecules play a part that we may be able to suggest a series of different drugs. It would be interesting to do more research along these lines and maybe combine it with research that works toward developing personal treatments, that is, treatments aimed specifically at the individual patient,” said Professor Cecconi.

Read the scientific article in Nature Communications here.

More information about CARD can be found at the Danish Cancer Society here.