Skin cancer occurs when skin cells divide and grow uncontrollably to form tumours. Rho proteins – which help to control the life and death of cells – are thought to play a key role in this process, but it‘s not been clear what kick-starts them. To get some answers scientists worked with mice genetically engineered to lack two proteins called vav2 and vav3. When normal mice were repeatedly slathered in cancer-causing chemicals, their skin cells (shown in green) grew and divided like crazy. But in vav-deficient mice, cell proliferation was dramatically reduced, suggesting that vav proteins switch on Rho activity and play a key role in tumour promotion. Although there are likely to be more proteins involved, the results suggest that vav could be a target for new skin cancer treatments.
Written by Daniel Cossins
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.