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REVIEW: Translational Control of Aberrant Stress Responses as a Novel Hallmark of Cancer

By January 18, 2018January 22nd, 2018No Comments

Altered mRNA translational control is emerging as a critical factor in cancer development and progression. Targeting specific elements of the translational machinery, such as mTORC1 or eIF4E, is emerging as a new strategy for innovative cancer therapy. While translation of most mRNAs takes place through cap-dependent mechanisms, a sub-population of cellular mRNA species, particularly stress-inducible mRNAs with highly structured 5′-UTR regions, are primarily translated through cap-independent mechanisms. Intriguingly, many of these mRNAs encode proteins that are involved in tumour cell adaptation to microenvironmental stress, and thus linked to aggressive behaviour including tumour invasion and metastasis. This necessitates a rigorous search for links between microenvironmental stress and aggressive tumour phenotypes. Under stress, cells block global protein synthesis to preserve energy while maintaining selective synthesis of proteins that support cell survival. One highly conserved mechanism to regulate protein synthesis under cell stress is to sequester mRNAs into cytosolic aggregates called stress granules (SGs), where their translation is silenced. SGs confer survival advantages and chemotherapeutic resistance to tumour cells under stress. Recently, it has been shown that genetically blocking SG formation dramatically reduces tumour invasive and metastatic capacity in vivo. Therefore targeting SG formation might represent a potential treatment strategy to block cancer metastasis. Here we present the critical link between selective mRNA translation, stress adaptation, SGs and tumour progression. Further, we also explain how deciphering so-called selective mRNA translation occurs under cell stress holds great promise for the identification of new targets in the treatment of cancer.