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How MAGE-A11 gene drives cancer revealed

Memphis, Tennessee, January 21, 2020

Photo of Ryan Potts against a black background.

Dr. Ryan Potts of the St. Jude Department of Cell and Molecular Biology.

St. Jude scientists are figuring out what controls a process called alternative polyadenylation (APA) of mRNA.

Scientists knew APA played a role in some diseases, such as cancer. But they didn’t know how that process occurred.

The team looked at a family of genes called melanoma antigens (MAGEs). One of those, MAGE-A11, is normally restricted to germ cells. MAGE-A11 is also abnormally expressed in cancer.

“There is growing interest in the field of MAGE genes,” said Ryan Potts, PhD, of the St. Jude Department of Cell and Molecular Biology. “This is due to their broad expression in aggressive cancers, correlation with poor clinical outcomes and their promotion of tumor growth and metastasis.”

Results showed that MAGE-A11 drives cancer by promoting APA. Analysis of the proteins affected by MAGE-A11 revealed core oncogenic and tumor suppressor genes and pathways.

MAGE proteins may explain how tumors use germ cell functions to rewire key signaling pathways in cancer cells.

Molecular Cell published a report on this work.

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