The study, published by University of Alberta biologists, identifies an inhibition mechanism of an enzyme called Myt1 kinase, which manages how stem cells develop and differentiate during organ development in fruit flies.

“In addition to furthering our understanding of developmental biology in fruit flies, this discovery is highly relevant to cancer research, where Myt1 is being scrutinized for its role in ‘checkpoint’ mechanisms that govern entry into mitosis,” said Shelagh Campbell, professor emerita in the Faculty of Science and member of the research team.

Campbell explained that these checkpoint mechanisms balance cell growth and differentiation as an organism develops, and are required for the development of organs and tissues with appropriate size and function.

“This study shows how Myt1 regulates the cell cycle to allow cell differentiation, with defects in this process causing hyperproliferation and organ dysplasia,” said Campbell. “This greater understanding of Myt1 in fruit flies can be expected to benefit the development of effective cancer therapies with checkpoint inhibitor drugs.”

Even in organisms as diverse as humans and fruit flies, adult stem cells produce progenitor cells that differentiate into specialized types to regenerate intestinal cell walls, balancing cell loss by injury, infection and ageing with new growth.

“Using fruit flies as a model, graduate student Reegan Willms discovered that loss of Myt1 caused hyperproliferation of intestinal stem cells and progenitor cells,” said Campbell. “Working with post-doctoral researcher Jie Zeng, Willms demonstrated that Myt1 is critical to inhibiting this process during normal cell growth.”

Source: University of Alberta

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