News FocusCancer Research

A Surprising Function for the PTEN Tumor Suppressor

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Science  06 Nov 1998:
Vol. 282, Issue 5391, pp. 1027-1030
DOI: 10.1126/science.282.5391.1027

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Cancer researchers believed that the protein product of the tumor suppressor gene PTEN, discovered last year, might suppress tumor cell growth by stripping off phosphate groups attached to tyrosine residues in other proteins. Now, a flurry of new work is showing that PTEN is a phosphatase, but its target is a fatty molecule, or lipid, that's tucked into the cell membrane--a completely new kind of target, as far as tumor suppressors are concerned. The target lipid is a key component of one of the cell's major growth control pathways; this knowledge could aid the development of treatments for cancers in which PTEN is mutated or in which this growth control pathway is overactive for other reasons.