What can salad dressing tell us about cancer? Think oil and vinegar
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IMAGE: Jill Bouchard, Ph.D., Joel Otero, Ph.D., and Tanja Mittag, Ph.D. were studying SPOP initially to better understand its role in the mechanism of protein degradation, but the investigation became more… view more 

Credit: St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital / Ann Margaret Hedges

Researchers led by St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital scientists have identified another way the process that causes oil to form droplets in water may contribute to solid tumors, such as prostate and breast cancer. The findings appear today in the journal Molecular Cell.

Researchers found evidence that mutations in the tumor suppressor gene SPOP contribute to cancer by disrupting a process called liquid-liquid phase separation. Liquid-liquid phase separation is seen often in nature and is the reason why oil and vinegar separate in salad dressing.

SPOP is the most frequently mutated gene in prostate cancer and is altered in other solid tumors. The SPOP protein is part of the cell’s protein-recycling machinery. SPOP binds unneeded or unwanted proteins so they can be chemically tagged for destruction. Mutations in SPOP were known to disrupt binding and lead to a buildup of cancer-promoting proteins in sensitive cells. St. Jude research suggests that is not the whole story.

“This

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