Volume 13, Number 9 January 6, 2006

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Enzyme finding may help to treat epilepsy & cancer

By Michael Robin

U of S researchers have discovered that an imbalance between a basic enzyme and its inhibitor may lie at the root of diseases such as epilepsy and cancer.

Pathology professor and Saskatoon Cancer Centre research scientist Rajendra Sharma worked with pharmacology researcher John Tuchek and Baljit Singh from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine to look at the enzyme N-myristoyltransferase (NMT) and one of its inhibitors, heat shock cognate protein 70. This work was carried out by Ponniah Selvakumar in Sharma’s laboratory.

The team examined chickens bred for their predisposition to epilepsy by Tuchek. They found the chickens had higher than normal levels of NMT and lower than normal inhibitor protein levels.

NMT controls how proteins attach to cell membranes, while its inhibitor ‘turns it off’ once it has done its job. When the two are out of balance, proteins that are normally dissolved inside the cell stick to the cell membrane instead, wreaking havoc.

Since NMT is a basic enzyme involved in many different cell functions, the researchers hope that by regulating it, they can come up with new treatments for a wide range of diseases. They have already discovered two other NMT inhibitors for this purpose.

The study, published in the Oct. 7, 2005 edition of Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). Selvakumar is the recipient of a post-doctoral fellowship from the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation.

Michael Robin is a Communications Officer in the U of S Research Communications Office.

For more information, contact communications.office@usask.ca

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