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Biochem Pharmacol. 2010 Dec 15;80(12):1921-9. doi: 10.1016/j.bcp.2010.06.029. Epub 2010 Jun 25.

Transglutaminase 2: a multi-tasking protein in the complex circuitry of inflammation and cancer.

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Department of Experimental Therapeutics, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX 77030, USA.


Metastasis of primary tumors to distant sites and their inherent or acquired resistance to currently available therapies pose major clinical challenge to the successful treatment of cancer. The identification of tumor-coded genes and how they contribute to the progression of cancer is required to improve patient outcomes. Recently, cells that have undergone the epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), which share characteristics with cancer stem cells (CSC) have been implicated to play a role in drug resistance and metastasis of several types of cancer. In this review, we discuss the relationship among transglutaminase 2 (TG2), the EMT, and CSCs in inflammation and cancer. TG2 is a structurally and functionally complex protein implicated in such diverse processes as tissue fibrosis, wound healing, apoptosis, neurodegenerative disorders, celiac disease, atherosclerosis and cancer. Depending on the cellular context, TG2 can either promote or inhibit cell death. Increased expression of TG2 in several types of cancer cells has been associated with increased cell invasiveness, cell survival and decreased survival of patients with cancer. Down-regulation of TG2 by small interfering RNA (siRNA) or its inhibition by small molecule inhibitors has been shown to significantly enhances the therapeutic efficacy of anticancer drugs and inhibit metastatic spread. In addition, TG2-regulated pathways are involved in promoting or protecting normal and tumor cells from death-induced signaling. We discuss the contribution of TG2-regulated pathways to the development of drug resistance and progression to metastatic disease and the therapeutic potential of TG2 for treating advanced-stage cancer.

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