'Mahjong' Gene is a winner against cancer cells


Mahjong is a newly named gene found by Yoichiro Tamori, postdoctoral fellow at the Florida State University Department of Biological Science, along with colleagues. Mahjong is a gene that can help normal tissue fight cancerous tissues which will lead to new cancer treatments.

According to the article, the researchers originally identified this process of cell competition between Mahjong and other cells in fruit flies and they were also able to reproduce the results in mammalian tissue as well. Tamori was quoted as saying, “A better understanding of the ways that inherited or acquired mutations in key proteins lead to cell competition should help foster new therapies that increase the odds of victory for normal cells.” In simpler words, new therapies to fight cancer can be based on these findings.


The tumor suppressor gene, “Lethal giant larvae (Lgl)” binds with Mahjong to help fight the battle. If cells have insufficient Lgl cells, Mahjong can be increased to help offset the destruction of normal cells and to win the battle against the cancer cells. However, if Mahjong genes are deficit, increasing Lgl cells do not help.

Funding for this study was provided by a five-year grant from Deng from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This grant also supported another recent study into cancer researcher by colleague Associate Professor Win-Min Deng of Florida State in collaboration with researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. In that study, a new gene was found and named “Kibra.” The results can be found in the February 16, 2010 issue in the journal Developmental Cell and a discussion of the findings can be found in the April 2010 issue of Nature Reviews Cancer.

Citation: Tamori Y, Bialucha CU, Tian A-G, Kajita M, Huang Y-C, et al. (2010) Involvement of Lgl and Mahjong/VprBP in Cell Competition. PLoS Biol 8(7): e1000422. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1000422

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