Researchers discover an important protein's mechanism of action
MONTREAL, June 13, 2011 /CNW Telbec/ - A scientific breakthrough by
researchers at the Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal (IRCM)
will be published tomorrow in Developmental Cell, a scientific journal of the Cell Press group. Led by Dr. Frédéric Charron, the team of scientists discovered a
new requirement for the proper functioning of the Sonic Hedgehog protein.
Sonic Hedgehog belongs to a family of proteins that gives cells the information needed
for the embryo to develop properly. It plays a critical role in the
development of many of the body's organs, such as the central nervous
system. Malfunctions of these proteins are associated with many
diseases including cancer, which is the leading cause of death in
"On one hand, certain molecules travel through our organs (in this case,
Sonic Hedgehog) and transmit signals to cells with information on how they should
function," explains Luisa Izzi, postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Charron's
laboratory and co-first author of the article. "On the other hand, our
cells have receptors to receive these signals. The receptors then
instruct the cell's DNA as to which genes to turn on or off in order to
perform its function."
The team studied the interactions between the Sonic Hedgehog molecule and the recently-identified receptors Boc, Cdon and Gas1, all found on the surface of cells. "Our research showed, unexpectedly,
that these receptors are essential for the transmission of the hedgehog
molecule's signal," adds Martin Lévesque, an alumnus from Dr. Charron's
research unit and co-first author of the article.
"Disrupting the transmission of the Sonic Hedgehog signal can lead to diseases," says Dr. Charron, Director of the IRCM's
Molecular Biology of Neural Development research unit. "A better
knowledge of the receptors Boc, Cdon and Gas1 might in turn help our understanding of pathologies associated with
defective Sonic Hedgehog signalling. Our results could also lead to new avenues for the
treatment of certain diseases such as cancer."
According to the Canadian Cancer Society, an estimated 251,900 new cases
of cancer and 75,000 deaths caused by the disease will occur in Canada
in 2011. In 2007, cancer surpassed cardiovascular disease as the
leading cause of death in Canada.
Research carried out in Dr. Charron's laboratory was funded by the
Canadian Cancer Society, the Fonds de recherche en santé du Québec
(FRSQ), and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).
For more information, please refer to the article summary published in Developmental Cell: http://www.cell.com/developmental-cell/abstract/S1534-5807(11)00171-7.
In addition to directing this research project, Dr. Charron and his team
participated in a second study led by Dr. Benjamin L. Allen from the
University of Michigan Medical School. This second study, also to be
published in the June 14th issue of Developmental Cell, examined the role of the same receptors (Boc, Cdon and Gas1) in a different system and confirmed the results found at the IRCM.
Including these two studies, Dr. Charron's team have published three
new discoveries in the past two weeks in Developmental Cell and Neuron.
About Dr. Frédéric Charron
Frédéric Charron obtained his PhD in experimental medicine from McGill
University. He is an Associate IRCM Research Professor and Director of
the Molecular Biology of Neural Development research unit. Dr. Charron
is also Associate Research Professor in the Department of Medicine at
the Université de Montréal, and associate member of the Department of
Medicine (Division of Experimental Medicine), the Department of
Biology, and the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at McGill
University. In addition, he is a member of the McGill Integrated
Program in Neuroscience, the Montreal Regional Brain Tumor Research
Group at the Montreal Neurological Institute, and the Centre of
Excellence in Neurosciences (CENUM) at the Université de Montréal. Dr.
Charron is a Research Scholar from the Fonds de recherche en santé du
About the Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal (IRCM)
Founded in 1967, the IRCM (www.ircm.qc.ca) is currently comprised of 36 research units in various fields, namely
immunity and viral infections, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases,
cancer, neurobiology and development, systems biology and medicinal
chemistry. It also houses three specialized research clinics, seven
core facilities and two research platforms with state-of-the-art
equipment. The IRCM employs 425 people and is an independent
institution affiliated with the Université de Montréal. The IRCM clinic
is associated to the Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal
(CHUM). The IRCM also maintains a long-standing association with McGill
SOURCE Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal
For further information:
For more information and to schedule an interview with Dr. Charron, please contact:
Communications Officer (IRCM)
Communications Director (IRCM)