Researchers from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (UT MD Anderson CC) have found that a specific long non-coding RNA (lncRNA) regulates cancer metabolism. The evidence for this discovery came from studies in both the laboratory and the clinical setting. The researchers recently presented their findings at the 2015 American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting in Philadelphia.
- Ribonucleic acid (RNA): plays a central role in the pathway from DNA to proteins, known as the “Central Dogma” of molecular biology. An organism’s genetic information is encoded as a linear sequence of bases in the cell’s DNA. During the process known as transcription an RNA copy of a segment of DNA, or messenger RNA (mRNA), is made. This strand of RNA can then be read by a ribosome to form a protein.
- Long non-coding RNAs (lncRNA): are non-protein coding transcripts of RNA that have a regulatory function.
- Allele: is one of two or more versions of a gene. An individual inherits two alleles for each gene, one from each parent.
Since their recent discovery, lncRNAs have piqued the interest of cancer researchers due to their unusual role in regulating cellular functions and not encoding proteins like normal RNA.
About the Study:
In this study, researchers wanted to better understand how lncRNAs play a role in cancer metabolism. They looked at glutamine, a nutrient that fuels cellular metabolism and is often changed during by cancer. The investigators made numerous important observations during the study, including:
- lncRNA RNA CCAT2 resulted in a newly formed RNA protein complex that regulated the metabolic enzyme glutaminase 1 (GLS1).
- lncRNA, located near a DNA sequence called SNP known to be associated with an increased risk of colon cancer, had a stronger interaction with glutamine indicating a possible association with the higher-risk allele for colon cancer.
In a University press release about the study, Dr. George Calin, MD, PhD, Professor, Department of Experimental Therapeutics, Division of Cancer Medicine, UT MD Anderson CC, stated “Altered energy metabolism is a cancer hallmark as malignant cells tailor their metabolic pathways to meet their energy requirements. In our study, we found that CCAT2 regulated cancer metabolism in an allele-specific manner that appears to match a known risk associated with colon cancer. This study was novel in that it uncovered complex mechanisms of cancer metabolism and regulation controlled by a long non-coding RNA.”
Dr. Calin, continued, “While we are not saying that an increased risk for cancer results from this interaction, it may contribute to it. More studies are needed to learn more about this new development.”