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The researchers examined signaling by receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK). Abnormal RTK signaling is a major underlying cause of various developmental disorders and diseases, including many forms of cancer. RTK signaling pathway employs interactions between proteins Sos and Ras, and accounts for a broad range of molecular changes that underlie various cancers and other diseases. Disrupting the Sos-Ras interaction, then, is crucial to stemming the production of cancer cells.
Through a series of experimental and computational analyses, the scientists hypothesized that by mimicking a key portion of Sos, they might disrupt its interactions with Ras. Specifically, they observed that Sos activates Ras through a helix—a critical portion of Sos that makes contact with Ras. Creation of this Sos mimetic required a method for locking correct helical shapes in synthetic strings of amino acids – a method previously developed at NYU School of Medicine.