Before a cell can divide it must make a new set of chromosomes, so that both daughter cells receive the same genetic information as their mother. The period of chromosome replication is called the S phase and marks the start of a long series of complex reactions ending in cell division. The whole process is called the cell cycle, since after dividing, the cells can again engage in another round of chromosome replication and subsequent cell division. By deciding to do chromosome replication the cells are committed to cell division, and therefore this decision is of paramount importance for cell proliferation. The majority of cancer cells have defective regulation of the entry into S phase.
Boye¬ís group is working to characterize the molecules and reactions that are involved in the regulation of entry into S phase. In this work they use yeast cells as models. Surprisingly, the cell cycle regulation of yeast and human cells are quite similar and findings in yeast have laid the foundation for our understanding of the human cell cycle.
A recent publication from Boye¬ís group in the prestigious scientific journal Genes & Development describes a completely new principle for regulation of S phase. They show that a protein called Gcn2 is absolutely required to halt entry into S phase under certain conditions of stress. Gcn2 is a protein kinase, which means that its enzymatic activity is to append phosphate group onto other proteins, thereby regulating their activities. Until now, Gcn2 has been known as a regulator of general cell growth, but the Boye group has shown that it is also a regulator of the cell cycle. Therefore, the new findings have attracted much attention in the field.
In the coming FUGE project the group intends to characterize the molecules involved in S phase regulation, and in particular to find out what exactly Gcn2 is doing in the process. It is presently a mystery how Gcn2 is regulating the cell cycle, but this nut shall be cracked in the course of the project. Central in this work will be the researcher Be√°ta Grallert and the research fellow Tonje Tveg√•rd. The latter has just submitted her Ph.D. thesis based on this work. In addition, the research fellows Marit Krohn, Henriette C. Skj√łlberg and Cathrine A. B√łe will join in and work on related subjects.
FUGE funding granted to 41 research projects (news article from FUGE web page)
The home page of Erik Boye's group (radium.no/boye)
Department of Cell Biology
Institute for Cancer Research