Protein marker for a deadly brain tumour identified

Gliomas are untreatable tumours with a poor prognosis, high morbidity and mortality rates

By DTE Staff
Published: Tuesday 18 June 2019

A protein, which plays a significant role in regulating inflammation and cell death, has been identified as the prognostic marker against the most prevalent brain tumour (glioblastoma), whose prediction and survival rates are poor. 

Gliomas are untreatable tumours with a poor prognosis, high morbidity and mortality rates. These account for 80 per cent of primary malignant brain tumours.

Nucleotide-binding domain, and leucine-rich repeat containing receptors (NLR) can someday pave the way for designing better cancer drugs as well as increase survival rates for those affected by the disease, said researchers from IIT Jodhpur.

Gliomas consist of a heterogeneous population of cells such as microglia (immune cells of the brain), endothelial cells (cells that form the lining of blood vessels) and glioma cells (tumour cells).

The study found that protein NLRP12 when absent in microglia — brain cells that functions as immune cells — leads to aberrant cellular proliferation. Moreover, this protein was shown to be highly expressed in tumour cells.

On the contrary, NLRP12 deficient glioma cells show decreased the number of cells.

"Our research shows that deficiency of NLRP12 in microglia leads to their proliferation and decreased NLRP12 in glioma cells leads to decreased proliferation. Understanding cellular and molecular protein expression and cellular communication is key to developing effective therapies," the researchers said.

The paper was published in the international journal Scientific Reports.

In the study, the team used the Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) patient datasets, experimental data generated from normal cells and brain tumour cells cultured in the laboratory and experimental data generated from human brain tissue to identify novel biomarkers for glioma.

They established that NLR along with absent-in-melanoma 2 (AIM2) — an innate immune receptor — help in initiation and growth of several cancers. Studies were unable to establish link both to the pathology of glioma.

Identification of NLRP12 as a marker showed strong correlation with survival in different grades of glioma.

“We report differential expression and methylation of NLRs in glioma, followed by NLRP12 identification as a candidate prognostic marker for glioma progression,” the researchers added.

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