Cancer cells proliferate extremely fast. The material they need for this generating process comes from protein-producers – known as ribosomes – and there are millions of them in every cell. This means that new ribosomes also need to be produced very quickly. “So finding a way to inhibit this process is a very promising strategy for the development of new medications to treat tumour diseases,” explains Helmut Bergler, from the Institute of Molecular Biosciences at the University of Graz. Heretofore, however, only a few substances have been known to accomplish this. Using a wide-ranging screening process, Bergler and his research group identified over a hundred new substances that are able to block various stages of ribosome biogenesis. Their results were published recently in the journal BMC Biology.
“These findings improve our understanding of the extremely complex production process for ribosomes, and offer some new, potentially very promising approaches to cancer medication,” says Bergler. The team has provided the basis for creating chemical inhibitors for individual maturation stages in the formation of ribosomes.
A second publication, in the specialist journal eLife, describes Bergler’s work in collaboration with international colleagues to find out how the active centre of the ribosome is formed within the cell, as part of this “building” process. This also provided the researchers with some initial indicators as to why errors in the formation of ribosomes lead to an increased predisposition to leukaemia. These new insights could potentially offer a basis for new approaches to treatment.
D. Awad, M. Prattes, L. Kofler, I. Rössler, M. Loibl, M. Pertl, G. Zisser, H. Wolinski, B. Pertschy, H. Bergler, „Inhibiting eukaryotic ribosome biogenesis“, BMC Biol. 2019:46. doi: 10.1186/s12915-019-0664-2.
V. Kargas et al., „Mechanism of completion of peptidyltransferase centre assembly in eukaryotes“, eLife 2019; 8, doi: 10.7554/eLife.44904.001