The protein, known as Bod1, plays a vital role in allowing cancer cells to divide and proliferate. If it is removed, the cell is unable to divide and will eventually kill itself.
The discovery has been made by researchers working at Dundee University's College of Life Sciences, who have demonstrated that the Bod1 protein is essential to the growth and spread of cancer.
The research is published in the journal Nature Communications.
In addition, the team has discovered that Bod1 works by controlling the activity of an important cellular regulator called PP2A. While it is well known that PP2A plays a crucial role in cell division, how its activity is controlled has been a mystery. The new findings reveal how PP2A is regulated and suggest that a new approach for killing cancer cells might involve interrupting the interaction between Bod1 and PP2A.
Professor Jason Swedlow, senior author of the study, said: "This is an exciting discovery of a new mechanism for controlling how cells replicate and divide their genome. We know that Bod1 controls the activity of a critical regulator of cell division. We will definitely have fun in our next projects defining its potential as a cancer therapeutic."
Dr Iain Porter, who led the study, said, "Bod1 is an incredible molecule that joins a growing family of proteins that regulate how PP2A works at specific points in the life cycle of a cell. Our future work will dissect the roles of these proteins and how they control fundamental processes of cell biology."