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An analysis of the Tau expression profile led by Michelangelo Foundation researchers, in collaboration with Ente Ospedaliero Cantonale in Lugano and San Raffaele University in Milan, suggests a major role in multiple types of cancer
The microtubule-associated protein Tau (MAPT) plays a role in causing some neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer, and now a study led by Michelangelo Foundation researchers and published on Scientific Data shows its involvement in multiple types of cancer, with an impact heavily influenced by the specific cellular environment.
To study the role of Tau in cancer, researchers evaluated MAPT gene expression values in over 10.000 clinical samples from 32 distinct cancer types and over 1300 pre-clinical samples from 28 cancer types provided by two distinct datasets, TCGA and DEPMAP respectively. MAPT expression was next correlated with all expressed genes in each cancer type. Results of this in-silico pan-cancer trascriptomic analysis shows that MAPT expression is significantly associated with cell proliferation, inflammation, and epithelial to mesenchymal transition-related genes that are part of cellular pathways fundamental for tumor initiation and progression. This association varies not only according to the cancer type but in some instances according to p53 status, a tumor soppressor protein mutated in around 50% of tumors. Moreover, researchers found different associations between MAPT expression and survival, such as a positive association with breast cancer survival and a negative one in uterine cancer, adding to current knowledge of Tau level correlation with survival in central nervous system cancers such as neuroblastoma and glioma. In an analysis of the association between Tau and drug response in cell lines derived from 22 different cancer types, researchers also demonstrated that MAPT expression may represent an informative predictor of drug response in multiple cancer types. Taken together, results support for a critical and context-dependent role of Tau in cancer. As authors conclude, «Overall, our findings indicate that the MAPT gene is a potential major player in multiple types of cancer. Importantly, the impact of Tau on cancer seems to be heavily influenced by the specific cellular environment where it is expressed».