Study reveals function of cancer-linked MAGE genes

Memphis, Tennessee, May 29, 2019

Klementina Fon Tracer, PhD, Ryan Potts, PhD, and Jonathon Klein

Study authors Klementina Fon Tacer, PhD, Ryan Potts, PhD, and Jonathon Klein. 

St. Jude scientists have identified for the first time the function of a family of genes called melanoma antigens (MAGEs).  

Cancer cells hijack these genes to help them withstand stress, such as chemotherapy exposure.

The team used cell lines and mouse models to evaluate MAGE genes. The genes are expressed only by male germ (sex) cells. The scientists’ work shows that MAGE genes evolved to protect inherited DNA in men from stress.

The researchers focused on a subtype of MAGE genes called MAGE-A. The findings suggest that MAGE-A expression turns on to boost energy stores, helping cells adapt to stress.

“In the future, evaluating MAGE genes may provide a way to identify patients who have an increased risk of fertility issues after treatment,” said senior author Ryan Potts, PhD, of the St. Jude Department of Cell and Molecular Biology.

A report on this work appeared in Science Advances.

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