What it takes to make a loser
26 July 2017
Eugenia Piddini and her team have carried out a detailed analysis of cells that are killed by other cells during cell competition (so called losers).
In their recent work, published in Nature Communications (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-017-00145-y), they identify new signalling pathways that are hallmarks of loser cells and characterise how they contribute to the loser status. A key discovery emerging from their work is that activation of the oxidative stress response is sufficient to turn cells into losers and be killed off by their neighbours. This is interesting because the oxidative stress response is normally activated in cells as a way to protect themselves from oxidative insults.
“What we found”, says Professor Piddini, “is that activating the oxidative stress response in cells serves a dual purpose. On the one hand, as it is well established, it acts as a pro-survival adaptation response. On the other hand, however, it primes cells for the elimination by neighbouring cells that are not undergoing oxidative stress and are not activating this response.” Oxidative stress is a hallmark of several pathologies including neurodegenerative diseases and cancer. “If the findings from our Drosophila work also hold for mammalian cells this might help us understand the onset and spread of these diseases”, says Professor Piddini.
Professor Eugenia Piddini joined the School last summer and was awarded a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellowship in January.