Extraordinary gene transfer between cells observed

Posted: January 7, 2015 at 11:42 am

MEDIA RELEASE 7 January 2015

Extraordinary gene transfer between cells observed

Tumour cells without mitochondrial DNA form tumours only after importing replacement DNA from surrounding cells.

A fundamentally new biological process involving gene transfer between cells was published today in the leading biological journalCell Metabolism by a team headed by Professor Mike Berridge from the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research, Wellington New Zealand, and Professor Jiri Neuzil from the Griffith University, Queensland Australia.

In mouse models of breast cancer and melanoma that had had their mitochondrial DNA removed, replacement DNA was acquired from surrounding normal mouse tissue. After adopting this new DNA, the cancer cells went on to form tumours that spread to other parts of the body.

Professor Berridge says the landmark discovery could open up whole new areas of research.

Our findings overturn the dogma that genes of higher organisms are usually constrained within cells except during reproduction. It may be that mitochondrial gene transfer between different cells is actually quite a common biological occurrence.

Although other research groups have seen mitochondrial DNA move between cells in the laboratory, the Malaghan team is the first to demonstrate the transfer in an animal tumour model.

Berridge says the research wouldnt have happened without the extraordinary patience of his research colleague, An Tan.

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Extraordinary gene transfer between cells observed

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