Gene of the Month - Pokemon

10 October 2016

Interview with

Kat Arney

And finally it's time for our Gene of the Month, and this time it's Pokemon. First described in 2005 in the journal Nature, no less, and found in mammals such as mice and humans, the name Pokemon stands for "POK erythroid myeloid ontogenic." It makes a type of molecule known as a transcriptional repressor, which shuts down the activity of certain genes - sadly, it doesn't make cells look like Pokemon characters, but it does make them behave very badly. High levels of Pokemon can turn healthy cells into cancerous ones - and it's been implicated in many human cancers, especially lung and liver tumours - while cells lacking the molecule are completely resistant to tumour transformation, so there's a lot of interest in developing drugs based on it. Sadly, because games manufacturers don't have quite the same sense of humour as scientists, the company Pokemon USA threatened a lawsuit over the use of their trademark for the gene and it's now referred to as the much more boring Zbtb7. All is not completely lost, however, and another Pokemon-based gene - Pikachurin - seems to have slipped through the net.  Gotta catch 'em all!

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