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Like a bomb squad defusing a potentially explosive suitcase, a component of the cell’s protein sorting machinery helps disarm a key signaling pathway in primitive nerve cells to prevent brain tumours from birthing.
Researchers from Peking University discovered the safeguard mechanism by studying stem cells from the developing brain of fruit flies. The Notch signalling pathway is critical for maintaining these neuroblast cells in their primitive state, and hence it must be turned off to ensure the proper development of neurons.
The researchers showed that the retromer complex — a master recycling centre for sorting molecular cargo between different membrane-bound compartments in the cell — retrieves and takes away harmful Notch receptors that could lead to abnormal dedifferentiation of neural progenitors.
The findings suggest that modulating the retromer function could offer a new treatment strategy for cancer patients, including those with aggressive brain tumours.