Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Genetic control of an enzyme called matriptase regulates cell movement through tissues and hence implicated in cancer spread

27 August 2021

Making a Move

Cancer usually only becomes life-threatening when cells break away from a tumour and start spreading around the body, so any normal processes in the body that allow cells to go on the move have to be tightly controlled. Tissues in zebrafish and mammals like humans and mice can make an enzyme called matriptase, which cuts through the molecular ‘glue’ that normally holds cells together, allowing them to start moving around. Matriptase is usually controlled by a gene called Hai1, which stops it being active where it’s not needed. This image shows mobile cells called neutrophils (highlighted in green) spreading fast through the tail of a zebrafish larva that has unusually high matriptase activity due to carrying a faulty version of the Hai1 gene. Cancers that lack Hai1 and have high matriptase activity are highly invasive, so understanding more about how these molecules work could point towards potential anti-cancer treatments in the future.

Written by Kat Arney

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