Scientists reveal structure of amino acid transporter involved in cancer
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IMAGE: This is an image of the University of Groningen scientists involved in the study — left to right, standing: D.J. Slotboom, A. Guskov, A.A. Garaeva, C. Paulino — seated: G.T…. view more 

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The human glutamine transporter ASCT2 is upregulated in several forms of cancer. It is also the docking platform for a wide range of pathogenic retroviruses. A team of University of Groningen scientists have used cryo-electron microscopy to elucidate the structure of the protein, which may generate leads for drug development. The results were published in Nature Structural & Molecular Biology on 5 June.

In human cells, the ASCT2 protein imports the amino acid glutamine and maintains the amino acid balance in many tissues. The amount of ASCT2 is increased in several types of cancer, probably because of an increased demand for glutamine. Furthermore, several types of retrovirus infect human cells by first docking on this protein.

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ASCT2 is part of a larger family of similar transporters. To understand how this family of amino acid transporters works, and to help design drugs that block glutamine transport by ASCT2 or its role as a viral docking station, University of Groningen scientists have resolved the 3D structure of the

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