Role of a protein called IL-22 in colorectal cancer formation identified
Approximately 10% of cancers in the UK are colorectal. Some cases are caused by mutations in the APC gene but a signalling molecule called IL-22 is also implicated. Ordinarily, IL-22 maintains healthy intestinal tissue and activates a cascade of genes called the STAT3 pathway. Researchers now investigate what it's doing in colorectal cancer using mice. Normal intestinal tissue (1st and 2nd panels from the left) and intestinal tissue with mutated APC (3rd and 4th) can both activate STAT3 in response to IL-22 – as seen by the white fluorescent staining (2nd and 4th panels). But the team found that in the mutant tissue, unlike in normal tissue, IL-22 also activated genes involved in DNA damage and oxidative stress, two processes known to contribute to tumour formation. IL-22 therefore does have a role in colorectal cancer, likely in promoting early tumour formation.
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