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Two Words You Never Want to See Together

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A new study published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry by researchers in Brazil suggests that certain cancer-associated mutations may exhibit the same characteristics as prions, the misfolded proteins that are thought to cause diseases like Creutzfeldt–Jakob or mad cow disease, says a press release from the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro. The group presents new evidence that the p53 protein may show prion-like behavior when it is mutated. "It has been known for some time that the buildup of p53 in the cell impairs the protein in preventing tumor growth," UFRJ says. "This has been observed in neuroblastoma, retinoblastoma, breast, and colon cancers." In analyzing breast cancer cell lines carrying common p53 mutations, the team found that "the formation of amyloid-like aggregates of p53 proteins may explain the protein's lack of function," the press release adds.

The team has yet to determine if the prion-like behavior is a relevant mechanism for cancer development, but they are planning further studies with synthesized nucleic acids to see if they can prevent the aggregation of misfolded proteins. "Considering that more than half of the cancers lose p53 function, this prionoid behavior may serve as a potential novel target for cancer therapy," UFJR says.

The Scan

Interfering With Invasive Mussels

The Chicago Tribune reports that researchers are studying whether RNA interference- or CRISPR-based approaches can combat invasive freshwater mussels.

Participation Analysis

A new study finds that women tend to participate less at scientific meetings but that some changes can lead to increased involvement, the Guardian reports.

Right Whales' Decline

A research study plans to use genetic analysis to gain insight into population decline among North American right whales, according to CBC.

Science Papers Tie Rare Mutations to Short Stature, Immunodeficiency; Present Single-Cell Transcriptomics Map

In Science this week: pair of mutations in one gene uncovered in brothers with short stature and immunodeficiency, and more.