Jul. 07, 2019


New research by Prof. Dan Levy, a member of the National Institute for Biotechnology in the Negev and the Shraga Segal Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Genetics along with Dr. Michal Feldman, has developed a novel mechanism to regulate the human cell division process. The discovery could shed light on tumorigenic pathways and other diseases.

  Dr. Michal Feldman                                     Prof. Dan Levy

Methylation is an enzymatic reaction which modifies DNA or proteins by adding a chemical molecule (named methyl group). Most studies focus on the effect of methylation on DNA; however there is a growing body of evidence suggesting a direct effect of methylation on the activity of proteins within the cell.  The identification of the enzymes responsible for adding the methyl group (called methyltransferases) and the cellular pathways regulated by these enzymes is of great importance not only for the study of basic cellular processes but also for elucidating how different diseases, including cancer, diabetes and fatty liver evolve.

The research, recently published in the scientific journal Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), showed that methylation is involved in regulating the progression of cell division. Uncontrolled cell division in our body is considered the primary cause for tumor development. Dr. Feldman found that the methyltransferase SETD6 methylates PLK1, which is a master regulator of cell division. This methylation adjusts the velocity at which cells divide. The research points out that in the absence of methylation, PLK1 shows increased activity, leading to accelerated cell division reflected in faster cell proliferation.

Prof. Levy's lab focuses on the study of additional ways in which protein methylation participates, such as cell motility, programmed cell death, DNA damage control, adipocytes differentiation and more.  pathways and others have a direct effect on the development of diseases investigated in the lab.

"The research performed in the lab is of cardinal significance for basic and applicative study and is of great potential for the identification of new therapeutic targets. Indeed our research group deals with the development of specific inhibitors for the activity of the SETD6 methyltransferase. Such inhibitors might be used in the future for the generation of therapy strategies facilitating the recovery from various pathologies in which SEDT6 in involved" says. Prof. Levy.