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New discovery in the genetic basis of Ewing's Sarcoma


Thu, 04/08/2011 - 18:02

New discovery in the genetic basis of Ewing's Sarcoma


  • Researchers from the CRG have discovered that ultraviolet light affects the function of the protein EWS, the mutation of which is responsible for Ewing’s sarcoma.
  • The results, published in the journal Molecular Cell, indicate that the EWS protein has a protective effect on DNA.

The genetic circuits altered in cancer processes include the activation or inhibition of various genes and proteins. In the case of Ewing's sarcoma, EWS protein alterations induce changes in the expression of various genes, thus affecting the ability to detect and correct DNA damage.
The genetic material contains all of the information necessary for the proper functioning of cells. This material may become damaged but the cell has sophisticated mechanisms to detect and repair this damage. When the genetic material in our cells is exposed to ultraviolet light one of the strands of the DNA molecule may break. The work presented by the CRG researchers describes the effects of ultraviolet radiation on the Ewing's Sarcoma protein and its role in the response to genetic damage. “We now know that EWS plays a crucial role in cell maintenance and contributes to the response to genetic damage. Alterations in this response, such as those which occur in Ewing's sarcoma, make the cells more susceptible to DNA damage, which may contribute to the development of a tumor”, explains Juan Valcárcel, group leader at the CRG, ICREA research professor and principal investigator of the study.
The group's findings indicate that during normal response to DNA damage, the EWS protein stops being joined to the genes it regulates and relocates to structures located within the cell nucleus known as nucleoli. This relocation results in changes in the expression of the genes regulated by EWS, and these changes are important for an appropriate response to DNA damage.
The work was undertaken by the researchers Maria Paronetto and Belén Miñana, and led by Juan Valcarcel, director of the Regulation of Alternative Processing of RNA Precursors research group at the Centre for Genomic Regulation. The project is supported and funded by the Fundación Marcelino Botin, AICR, the Alicia Koplowitz Foundation, EURASNET, the Ministry of Education and Science and the RNAREG Consolider project.
About Ewing's Sarcoma
Ewing's sarcoma is a cancer affecting the cells in the bone tissue or soft tissue near the bone. It is a rare disease occurring more commonly in men than in women, especially amongst teenagers.
Reference: Paronetto et al., The Ewing Sarcoma Protein Regulates DNA Damage-Induced Alternative Splicing, Molecular Cell (2011), doi:10.1016/j.molcel.2011.05.035

For further information: Laia Cendrós or Juan Sarasua, Press Office, Communication and Public Relations Dept., Centre for Genomic Regulation. Tel. 93 316 02 37.