Role of adaptor protein could point the way for new diabetes, cancer treatments

A protein known to be part of a complex communications network within the cell has also been found to be associated with important processes involved in cancer and diabetes.

In a study that will be published Feb. 18 in Science Signaling, researchers identified a new role for the adaptor protein p66Shc in controlling glucose metabolism and cell growth, two processes that are highly regulated in our cells. When disruptions in these functions occur, diseases like cancer and diabetes can arise.

The job of adaptor proteins is to act as a linker or switch to fine-tune cellular functions. Previous research by other scientists suggested that mice deficient in the p66Shc adaptor protein have an increased lifespan, no signs of cancer, better glucose tolerance and an apparent resistance to the development of obesity and diabetes.

With this knowledge, Mohamed Soliman, a researcher at the Lunenfeld Tanenbaum Research Institute at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, and his colleagues set out to better understand the role of adaptor p66Shc in cells.

"We found when silencing the adaptor p66Shc in cells, it enhances not only glucose metabolism, but also the metabolism of and molecules involved in making the cells' building blocks, resulting in overall increased cell growth," Soliman said in a statement.

In other words, p66Shc acts to suppress insulin signaling and energy metabolism when glucose levels are high, as in the case of diabetes, the researchers explained.

The findings could help scientists find new treatments for diabetes and cancer by targeting the p66Shc adaptor.

- read the press release