NPM1 is associated with nucleolarribonucleoprotein structures and bind single-stranded and double-stranded nucleic acids, but it binds preferentially G-quadruplex forming nucleic acids. It is involved in the biogenesis of ribosomes and may assist small basic proteins in their transport to the nucleolus. Its regulation through SUMOylation (by SENP3 and SENP5) is another facet of the proteins's regulation and cellular functions.
It is located in the nucleolus, but it can be translocated to the nucleoplasm in case of serum starvation or treatment with anticancer drugs. The protein is phosphorylated.
NPM1 gene is up-regulated, mutated and chromosomally translocated in many tumor types. Chromosomal aberrations involving NPM1 were found in patients with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, acute promyelocytic leukemia, myelodysplastic syndrome, and acute myelogenous leukemia. Heterozygous mice for NPM1 are vulnerable to tumor development. In solid tumors NPM1 is frequently found overexpressed, and it is thought that NPM1 could promote tumor growth by inactivation of the tumor suppressor p53/ARF pathway; on the contrary, when expressed at low levels, NPM1 could suppress tumor growth by the inhibition of centrosome duplication.
Of high importance is NPM involvement in acute myelogenous leukemia, where a mutated protein lacking a folded C-terminal domain (NPM1c+) has been found in the cytoplasm in patients. This aberrant localization has been linked to the development of the disease. Strategies against this subtype of acute myelogenous leukemia include the refolding of the C-terminal domain using pharmalogical chaperones and the displacement of the protein from nucleolus to nucleoplasm, which has been linked to apoptotic mechanisms.
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