A protein kinase, or enzyme, known as PKM2 controls not only gene expression but also cell division, according to an MD Anderson study published in the journal Nature Communications. The findings potentially provide a molecular basis for tumor diagnosis and treatment.
The study, led by Zhimin Lu, M.D., Ph.D., professor in Neuro-oncology, showcased the nonmetabolic abilities of PKM2 (pyruvate kinase M2) in promoting tumor cell proliferation when cells produce more of the enzyme.
Results underscored PKM2’s function in tumor formation during the final stages of cell division, or cytokinesis. Understanding how cytokinesis goes awry is important since abnormal cell division impacts tumor cell growth and spread. Lu’s team looked at PKM2’s role in brain tumor development in mice.
“Our research shows that PKM2-regulated cytokinesis occurs in malignant tumors with bad outcomes, such as glioblastoma, pancreatic cancer and melanoma,” says Lu.
The study was funded by the National Cancer Institute, the James S. McDonnell Foundation and the Odyssey Fellowship from MD Anderson.