PerspectiveCell Signaling

Lipids link ion channels and cancer

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Science  21 Aug 2015:
Vol. 349, Issue 6250, pp. 789-790
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad0874

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How does membrane voltage control cellular proliferation? This is a key but poorly understood step in understanding how dysregulation of the electrical balance in a cell can lead to uncontrolled proliferation and, eventually, to tumor development. Although the phenomenon is well established (13), the underlying mechanisms have been unclear. On page 873 of this issue, Zhou et al. (4) show that persistent changes in the resting membrane potential (the voltage across the membrane of a cell), caused by the uncontrolled expression of ion channels, can cause negatively charged lipid in the inner membrane leaflet to cluster and attract the signaling protein K-Ras, enhancing its ability to promote cell proliferation.