Altered TRPV6 expression is linked to cancer and other diseases.
Researchers were able to image a calcium-shuttling molecule that is linked to aggressive cancers.
They believe this could lead to new oncology treatments and diagnostic tools, according to a study published by Nature. The researchers are currently studying transient receptor potential (TRP) channels, which are proteins that line the surfaces in the body, and help calcium cross membranes to reach the interior of cells.
“Scientists have found that a TRP channel variant, called TRPV6, is present in excess amounts in the tumor cells of some cancer patients,” said senior author Alexander Sobolevsky, PhD. “And patients who have higher quantities of TRPV6 seem to have a more aggressive form of the disease.”
Researchers used X-ray crystallography to discover how TRP channels guide calcium into the cell, and how deregulation of this process can lead to different diseases. They discovered that the surface of TRPV6 pores is lined with negative charges that attracts positively-charged calcium ions.
The researchers found that the calcium ion is shuffled through different locations within the pore.
"In future, we could use this model to design drugs that can target some types of tumor cells by plugging up TRP channels on their surfaces," Dr Sobolevsky said.
Calcium can be used to regulate various processes, such as the heartbeat, muscle contractions, and brain signaling. However, altered calcium and TRPV6 expression is linked to cancer, Crohn’s disease, and kidney stones.
Researchers concluded that additional research is needed to determine how much alteration is needed to lead to disease progression.