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Enzyme ‘atlas’ helps researchers decipher cellular pathways

Washington: A new atlas maps more than 300 proteins kinases found in human cells and identifies which types of protein substrates they target. The atlas could help scientists understand what happens when cells become cancerous or are treated with specific drugs.

Identifying the protein kinases involved in cellular dysfunction and cancer development could yield many new drug targets, but for the vast majority of these kinases, scientists don’t have a clear picture of which cellular pathways they are involved in, or what their substrates are.

“We have a lot of sequencing data for cancer genomes, but what we’re missing is the large-scale study of signaling pathway and protein kinase activation states in cancer. If we had that information, we would have a much better idea of ​​how to drug particular tumors,” says Michael Yaffe, who is a David H. Koch Professor of Science at M.I.T.the director of the MIT Center for Precision Cancer Medicine, a member of MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer researchand one of the senior authors of the new study.

Yaffe and other researchers have now created a comprehensive atlas of more than 300 of the protein kinases found in human cells, and identified which proteins they likely target and control.

This information could help scientists decipher many cellular signaling pathways, and help them to discover what happens to those pathways when cells become cancerous or are treated with specific drugs.

Lewis Cantley, a professor of cell biology at Harvard Medical School and Dana Farber Cancer Institute, and Benjamin Turk, an associate professor of pharmacology at Yale School of Medicine, are also senior authors of the paper, which appears today in Nature.

The paper’s lead authors are Jared Johnson, an instructor in pharmacology at Weill Cornell Medical Collegeand Tomer Yaron, a graduate student at Weill Cornell Medical College.

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