A University of Utah biochemist has received a $100,000 research grant from the American Cancer Society.

Martin Rechsteiner, professor and co-chair of the U. School of Medicine's department of biochemistry, said the research is part of an ongoing project to study a cluster of amino acids common to all oncogenes, which are cancer-producing genes. These acids are responsible for a rapid degradation of protein strands within the cell.Biochemists at the U. medical school speculated in 1986 that there was a relationship between the amino acids, known as PEST sequences, and oncogenes.

Rechsteiner said intracellular protein breakdown is somewhat akin to a person continually tearing down and rebuilding parts of a house in such a way that the house doesn't collapse. It is likely that when mutations occur and proteins are not degraded as rapidly as they should be, cell division and cancer can result.

More than 14 U. scientists are involved in studies on protein degradation.