Dynamics of crucial protein linked to diabetes and cancer revealed

Scientists have shed light on a protein critical to the physiological processes involved in major diseases such as diabetes and cancer.

The findings by researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston and the University of California-San Diego School of Medicine could help scientists design new drugs to battle these disorders.

“This study applied a powerful protein structural analysis approach to investigate how a chemical signal called cAMP turns on one of its protein switches, Epac2,” said principal investigator Xiaodong Cheng, professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at UTMB.

The cAMP molecule controls many physiological processes, ranging from learning and memory in the brain and contractility and relaxation in the heart to insulin secretion in the pancreas.

cAMP exerts its action in cells by binding to and switching on specific receptor proteins, which, when activated by cAMP, turn on additional signaling pathways.

Errors in cell signaling are responsible for diseases such as diabetes, cancer and heart failure.

Understanding cAMP-mediated cell signaling, in which Epac2 is a major player, likely will facilitate the development of new therapeutic strategies specifically targeting the cAMP-Epac2 signaling components, said the researchers.

The finding is available online and will be published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, May 20.

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