AUG 19, 2021 6:00 AM PDT

Immune Enzyme Kills Viruses but Makes Tumors Stronger

WRITTEN BY: Tara Fernandes

Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1886 novel Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde describes a man who is a kind, respected doctor by day and whose darker side manifests involuntarily at night. 

The immune enzyme APOBEC3A also has a similar dual nature: it helps shield healthy cells against viral infections and induces dangerous mutations in cancer cells, resulting in cancer metastasis and drug resistance. 

In a recent study, molecular immunologists at the University of California, Irvine have unraveled some of APOBEC3A’s long-standing mysteries, revealing two distinct pathways by which cells regulate the enzyme’s expression.

Previously, the team demonstrated how DNA mutations initiated by APOBEC3A—where the enzyme launches an attack on cancer cell genomes in a bid to stop them from growing—are incredibly common. Researchers detected these mutation signatures in over 80 percent of lung and breast cancers, for example.

In their latest work, the scientists took a closer look into how viral infections and stress caused by chemotherapeutic drugs influenced the activity of APOBEC3A. They found that viral infections kickstarted specific immune response pathways that upregulated APOBEC3, resulting in the elimination of viral pathogens. However, chemotherapy stimulates a distinct immune response which causes APOBEC3A to induce mutations in cancer cells, making them more aggressive.

“By understanding how cancer cells and viral infections regulate APOBEC3A expression, we are poised to take a critical step forward toward the development of both new therapeutic strategies to fight cancer and new antiviral therapies,” commented Rémi Buisson, lead investigator on the study.

In future works, Buisson and colleagues plan to study APOBEC3A’s role in the body’s fight against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. They are also looking to develop strategies for preventing APOBEC3A-induced mutations in tumors to improve the efficacy of anticancer treatments.

 



Sources: Nature Communications, UCI School of Medicine.

About the Author
PhD
Interested in health technology and innovation.
You May Also Like
AUG 16, 2022
Immunology
Two Studies Describe Powerful Antibodies That Neutralize SARS-CoV-2
AUG 16, 2022
Two Studies Describe Powerful Antibodies That Neutralize SARS-CoV-2
SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, has mutated many times into new variants, some that we don't hear about, while others ...
SEP 04, 2022
Microbiology
Sugar Disrupts the Microbiome, Altering Immunity
SEP 04, 2022
Sugar Disrupts the Microbiome, Altering Immunity
The microbes in our gut are indispensable to our health, and they are affected by what we eat. New research has used a m ...
SEP 09, 2022
Immunology
Antibodies are Sometimes Made with 'Stolen' DNA
SEP 09, 2022
Antibodies are Sometimes Made with 'Stolen' DNA
The human immune system must respond to a diverse array of infectious agents and harmful invaders throughout our lifetim ...
OCT 13, 2022
Cancer
Gene Editing Beyond CRISPR-Cas9: Base Editors
OCT 13, 2022
Gene Editing Beyond CRISPR-Cas9: Base Editors
Point mutations change one or very few nucleotides in DNA, but they cause an estimated 30,000 genetic diseases in humans ...
OCT 13, 2022
Cell & Molecular Biology
How the Tumor Microenvironment Can Disarm Immunity
OCT 13, 2022
How the Tumor Microenvironment Can Disarm Immunity
Cancer is basically what happens when cells start growing and dividing uncontrollably, and it gets worse when those canc ...
NOV 03, 2022
Drug Discovery & Development
A new vaccine against RSV can protect children from the virus immediately at birth
NOV 03, 2022
A new vaccine against RSV can protect children from the virus immediately at birth
As COVID-19 and flu virus infection rates are on the rise, another virus is now wreaking havoc on the United States ...
Loading Comments...