Annual Meeting

Targeting nitrated proteins could lead to new cancer drugs

Núria  Negrão
April 30, 2021

Glioblastoma multiforme is a type of cancer that develops in the brain. Aggressive and difficult to treat, glioblastoma tumors respond to few drugs, and most patients are treated with methods developed about 20 years ago. Kyle Nguyen, a second-year Ph.D. student in Maria Franco’s laboratory at Oregon State University, has been looking for a new way to target these tumors. He will present his work on Friday, 3–3:15 p.m. EDT, at the 2021 ASBMB Annual Meeting.

Courtesy of Kyle Nguyen
Kyle Nguyen in one of the Franco lab’s tissue culture rooms.

In broad terms, the Franco lab is interested in the role of oxidative stress in diseases of the nervous system. Oxidative stress is a chemical imbalance inside cells that leads to an accumulation of oxidants that damage healthy cells. It has been linked to aging and various diseases, including cancer. The lab studies the role of oxidants in the development and growth of tumors of the nervous system.

Franco lab
A confocal microscope image of actin polymerization within glioblastoma cells. Actin is in red, cell nuclei are in blue.

Peroxynitrite is the most powerful oxidant produced in cancer cells and in cells associated with other diseases. When peroxynitrite reacts with proteins it causes oxidative changes that can negatively affect the way the proteins work in the cells. “As far as we know, these are permanent chemical changes,” Nguyen said.

The lab is interested in tyrosine nitration, one of the changes mediated by peroxynitrite. Tyrosine nitration is virtually undetectable in normal tissues, Nguyen explained, so drugs that target nitrated proteins would not affect healthy cells. His project looked at tyrosine nitration of a protein called heat shock protein 90, or Hsp90. Nitrated Hsp90 promotes the survival of tumor cells, and this role is mediated by nitration of tyrosine residues within this protein.

In his work, Nguyen shows that tyrosine nitration supports the survival and migration of glioblastoma cells and thus is important for tumor development, and that nitrated Hsp90 may play more than one role in these tumors. Non-tumor cells do not have nitrated Hsp90 and tumor cells do, so targeting nitrated Hsp90 or other nitrated proteins could selectively kill tumor cells with few side effects.

Enjoy reading ASBMB Today?

Become a member to receive the print edition monthly and the digital edition weekly.

Learn more
Núria  Negrão

Núria Negrão is a medical writer and editor at Cactus Communications.

Related articles

From the journals: March 2019
John Arnst, Courtney Chandler, Isha Dey & Catherine Goodman
Cells beat stress — so can you!
Jeffrey I. Brodsky & Elizabeth Vierling

Get the latest from ASBMB Today

Enter your email address, and we’ll send you a weekly email with recent articles, interviews and more.

Latest in Science

Science highlights or most popular articles

Michel strives to be a better mentor

Michel strives to be a better mentor

Dec. 1, 2021

Lea Michel has won the ASBMB Early-Career Leadership Award for her commitment to advancing the careers of women in biochemistry and molecular biology.

A new way of looking at HDL in pregnancy
Journal News

A new way of looking at HDL in pregnancy

Nov. 30, 2021

Researchers at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine explore the compositional complexity of high-density lipoprotein in expectant mothers.

How a tiny pet store fish became the center of neuroscience research

How a tiny pet store fish became the center of neuroscience research

Nov. 27, 2021

The tropical zebrafish is used extensively in genetics, neuroscience and development labs worldwide.

Science is a human endeavor

Science is a human endeavor

Nov. 26, 2021

The author learned some difficult and important lessons when he decided to pursue errors in a Nobel laureate’s work.

‘Fatty retina’: A root cause of vision loss in diabetes?
Lipid News

‘Fatty retina’: A root cause of vision loss in diabetes?

Nov. 25, 2021

Abnormalities of lipid metabolism are common in diabetes, so the authors reasoned that the retina might switch its programming in response to an abundance of fuel.

From the journals: MCP
Journal News

From the journals: MCP

Nov. 24, 2021

What’s the role of CD151 in triple-negative breast cancer? How similar are nonstructural proteins between coronavirus homologs? What proteins are candidates for targeting oral cancer?