Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Decision Time
15 June 2016

Decision Time

Our cells respond to thousands of signals from their surroundings every day – they must get this right or risk becoming diseased. Fatal conditions like cancer often begin with the faulty responses of a single cell. So how do cells cope when they receive signals marked 'top priority' but are already doing so much? These cancer cells might have the answer. Researchers found that a protein involved in cell division, E2F-1 (fluorescently-labelled green here), and a protein that responds to environmental signals, NF-kappaB (red), meet to 'decide' which process takes priority. This fleeting interaction may control how cells 'choose' to divide (like those rounding into balls here) or to respond to the outside world. Many cancers and autoimmune diseases are triggered by damage to E2F-1 or NF-kappaB. This microscopic meeting could explain how important processes are prioritised in healthy cells and how they might be influenced to avoid bad, cancerous decisions.

Written by John Ankers

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