Research Highlight

A protein marker to diagnose deadly brain tumour

doi:10.1038/nindia.2019.116 Published online 24 August 2019

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Biologists have identified a marker protein that, when inhibited, triggers runaway growth of cells in the brain. This growth eventually leads to deadly brain tumours1. This finding may help devise a way to diagnose vicious brain tumours at an early stage.

Various cells and cell-surface proteins, known as receptors, regulate tumour growth in humans. Certain receptors, such as nucleotide-binding and oligomerization domain, leucine-rich repeat containing receptors (NLRs), which help recognise pathogens and cellular damage, play vital roles in tumour development. However, NLRs’ roles in brain tumour are largely unknown.

To find this, scientists from the Indian Institute of Technology in Jodhpur and the Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai, both from India, analysed the Cancer Genome Atlas, an online database on various cancers, including brain cancer. They then combined the online data with experiments on human brain tumour tissues.

The researchers, led by Sushmita Jha, first identified a network of key genes that play roles in DNA damage repair, cell growth and death, tumour suppression and various signaling pathways. Next, they narrowed their search to specific genes, including ones that encode NLRs whose expression is altered in benign and deadly brain tumours.

The researchers found that NLRP12, an NLR receptor, is involved in normal immune responses. This protein, when absent in specific brain cells, leads to unbridled cell growth, giving birth to brain tumours.

Besides shedding light on molecular pathways of cancer, this protein may be targeted to develop therapies for brain tumours.


1. Sharma, N. et al. Differential expression profile of NLRs and AIM2 in glioma and implications for NLRP12 in glioblastoma. Sci. Rep.9, 8480 (2019)