The good news is that our cells are guarded by tumour suppressor proteins, which look for DNA damage and initiate any necessary repairs. But, if the genes coding for these proteins become mutated, cells containing damaged DNA are then able to grow and replicate out of control. In human cancers, one such gene called p53 is frequently mutated. Researchers have recently found mutations that cause certain shortened versions of the p53 protein to be produced – called truncating mutations – are enough to prevent the tumour suppressing function. Cells with truncated p53 also undergo a structural change (pictured on the right), compared to those with the full-length counterpart (left-hand side). These structural changes ultimately allowed cancerous cells to break away from the tissue, and travel and spread to other tissues in the body.
Written by Katie Panteli
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.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.