Components of the humble mothball are carcinogens because they block cell suicide according to research in the June 2006 issue of Nature Chemical Biology.
Naphthalene and para-dichlorobenzene (PDCB) are carcinogenic compounds found in mothballs and air fresheners and are known environmental pollutants. In order to determine how these chemicals exert their carcinogenic effects, Xue and colleagues treated the microscopic worm, Caenorhabditis elegans with the compounds. In addition to causing a developmental delay and a reduced brood size, they inhibited caspases, the key enzymes that kick off the tidy self-destruction of cells.
Naphthalene and PDCB are the first small molecule inhibitors of programmed cell death in C. elegans and lend support to the idea that a decrease in cell death can lead to carcinogenesis.
Ding Xue (University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA)
Abstract available online.
(C) Nature Chemical Biology press release.
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