In cell culture experiments, the researchers found that SHANK protein limits the ability of a protein called Rap1 to activate cell adhesion receptors, integrins. This same mechanism regulated cancer cell motility as well as the morphology and branching of neurites, known to be essential for normal brain function.
To reveal the underlying mechanism the co-operation of three international research group was needed.
Dr. Igor Barsukov's laboratory from University of Liverpool solved the 3-dimensional structure of SHANK protein, which led the researchers to study the correct mechanism. Then, Ivaska's research team in collaboration with neuroscientist Dr. Hans-Juergen Kreienkamp from Institute for Human Genetics, Hamburg, studied the function of SHANK in both cancer cells and neurons.
The research team and their collaborators are currently assessing if SHANK proteins have other impacts on cancer cells - especially on their proliferation.
The findings were published in the highly appreciated Nature Cell Biology - journal on the 6th of March 2017.
Original publication: SHANK proteins limit integrin activation by directly interacting with Rap1 and R-Ras. Johanna Lilja, Thomas Zacharchenko, Maria Georgiadou, Guillaume Jacquemet, Nicola De Franceschi, Emilia Peuhu, Hellyeh Hamidi, Jeroen Pouwels, Victoria Martens, Fatemeh Hassani Nia, Malte Beifuss, Tobias Boeckers, Hans-Juergen Kreienkamp, Igor L. Barsukov & Johanna Ivaska. Nature Cell Biology (2017). doi:10.1038/ncb3487; Published online 06 March 2017.
Editors Note: This article does NOT imply people with autism have an increased risk of cancer.
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