Two enzymes called DNMT1 and DNMT3b responsible for DNA methylation cooperate to silence genes that would otherwise stop human cancer cells from proliferating. So report Ina Rhee and colleagues of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, in this week's Nature (Vol. 416, No. 6880, 04 Apr 02).
Their findings establish that methylation (a way of switching genes off) is essential for gagging tumour-suppressor genes at least in colorectal cancer cells. They now hope to determine whether the same applies in other cancer cells. If so, disrupting methylation could limit tumour spread.
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