Malignant cells are thought to metastasize into specific organs as a result of interactions between cancer cell chemokine receptors and matching chemokines in target organs, but the mechanisms involved in reprogramming a tumor cell to express new chemokine receptors have been unclear. In the September 18 Nature, Peter Staller and colleagues at the Friedrich Miescher Institute show that the chemokine receptor CXCR4 gene is downregulated by von Hippel–Lindau tumor suppressor protein (pVHL) and may have a role in causing tumor cells to migrate and home in on a specific set of organs (Nature, 425:307-311, September 18, 2003).

Staller et al. introduced VHL into renal carcinoma cells (which lack a normal copy of this gene) to search for genes that are regulated by pVHL. Using DNA microarray analysis, they observed that normal pVHL dramatically reduced the production of the receptor protein CXCR4, an affect that was associated with...

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