New enzyme research could help to develop drugs to treat diseases such as cancer and Alzheimers Disease

New knowledge about the mechanism of specific protein complexes in the body could help in the development of better drugs for the treatment of diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s, according to research led by Professor John Schwabe from the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology.

The team focuses on understanding the structure and function of large protein complexes in the body that are involved in the regulation of gene expression called co-repressor complexes.

These complexes contain histone deacetylase (HDAC) enzymes, which alter how DNA is packaged within cells. HDACs are implicated in many different diseases from cancer to Alzheimer’s - and several drugs are in clinical use for the treatment of different types of lymphoma and myeloma.

In a new paper published in the journal Nature Communications, the interdisciplinary team has developed a novel peptide-based inhibitor and gained insights into how the enzymes are activated by the small molecule inositol phosphate.

Professor Schwabe explained: “This work provides fundamental basic insights into the HDAC enzymes and may provide the basis for the development of drugs that are more specific and efficient. Ultimately, a greater understanding of how these enzymes work and how substrate interacts may lead to the development of better drugs.”