Function Junction

A recent study from the Yaffe Lab and MIT Center for Precision Cancer Medicine, published in Cell Systems, investigates a subset of more than five hundred human proteins, known as protein kinases, that critically contribute to cancer. Whereas all protein kinases share a common core function, namely phosphorylation of their substrates, the study reveals how different kinases evolved functional diversity by mutating groups of specific amino acid residues (conceptually considered to be the building blocks of proteins).

Further investigation using a combination of computational and experimental methods reveals that certain known cancer mutations may be changing protein kinase function by targeting these specific groups of amino acid residues. The team's findings present both an explanation for the mechanisms behind the functional diversity of protein kinases and developing avenues for the understanding of, and potential therapeutic intervention against, key cancer mutations.