Scientists at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine have identified a function of an enzyme called ADAR1 (adenosine deaminase acting on RNA 1). It’s a member of a small family of enzymes that help control gene expression by altering bases of double-stranded RNA molecules. The work shows that ADAR1 might be a new target when developing ways stop cancer cells from gaining resistance to therapeutics, and may help show at an early stage when cells are becoming malignant.
In pre-malignant cells, the enzyme’s functions are taken over, and it’s used to promote the transformation of a cell to malignancy. “We were able to illuminate the abilities of ADAR1 to ‘hyper-mutate’ tumor suppressor RNAs in leukemia and, at the same time, edit the microRNA aimed at targeting the tumor suppressor RNA. This enzyme turns on cancer resistance via a domino effect on RNA instead of DNA,” explained Qingfei Jiang, Ph.D., the first author of a report on the findings in Cancer Cell.