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My PhD project aims to use Drosophila as a model system to understand the energy metabolism reprograming that occurs during cancer.
A growing body of evidence suggests an association between altered sugar metabolism and cancer progression, but it is still poorly understood today. Results from prior experiments have lead us to begin studying this association by analysing the role of spargel in cancer cells.
Spargel, the Drosophila homolog of the mammalian gene PGC-1a, is a transcriptional co-activator that stimulates mitochondrial biogenesis by upregulating genes encoding for mitochondrial proteins. I have identified that the cooperation of spargel with an oncogenic driver leads to the formation of neoplastic tumours. To our surprise, although these neoplastic tumours have spargel downregulated, analysis reveal that they overexpress genes involved in oxidative phosphorylation. As oxidative phosphorylation is a process that takes place in mitochondria, we expected the spargel downregulation to trigger a decrease in mitochondrial biogenesis and oxidative phosphorylation.
We are currently investigating this phenomenon so as to understand the metabolic reprogramming mechanism these tumours have developed.