Connexins are transmembrane proteins that form gap junctions and hemichannels and
allow ions and small molecules to pass from one cell to another or from the cell into
its environment, respectively. Since gap junctions are the main means of communication
between adjacent cells, they are vital to the function of multicellular organisms.
On October 8th, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry was jointly awarded to three chemists
who developed super-resolved fluorescent microscopy. Dr. Eric Betzig of the Janelia
Research Campus at Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Virginia, Dr. Stefan W. Hell
of the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry and German Cancer Research Center,
and Dr. William E. Moerner of Stanford University were jointly awarded the prize for
their groundbreaking work in the field of microscopy done in the early 2000s.
Decoy Protein Inhibits Metastatic Cancer Progression
Researchers at Stanford have recently synthesized a "decoy receptor" that binds and
inactivates a protein known to cause cancer. Axl receptor tyrosine kinase has been
associated with the growth of metastatic cancer, which is cancer that has spread throughout
the body and is not confined to one area. Axl promotes metastatic cancer by binding
Gas-6 ligand; two Gas-6 ligands join two Axl receptors, which signal cancer cells
to migrate to other parts of the body. The discovery of the mechanism of Axl has
allowed researchers to target both Axl and Gas-6 in therapeutic studies.