We previously described a novel suicide (or 'cell fate control') gene therapy enzyme/prodrug system based on an engineered variant of human thymidylate kinase (TMPK) that potentiates azidothymidine (AZT) activation. Delivery of a suicide gene sequence into tumors by lentiviral transduction embodies a cancer gene therapy that could employ bystander cell killing as a mechanism driving significant tumor regression in vivo. Here we present evidence of a significant bystander cell killing in vitro and in vivo mediated by the TMPK/AZT suicide gene axis that is reliant on the formation of functional gap-junctional intercellular communications (GJICs). Potentiation of AZT activation by the engineered TMPK expressed in the human prostate cancer cell line, PC-3, resulted in effective bystander killing of PC-3 cells lacking TMPK expression - an effect that could be blocked by the GJIC inhibitor, carbenoxolone. Although GJICs are mainly formed by connexins, a new family of GJIC molecules designated pannexins has been recently identified. PC-3 cells expressed both connexin43 (Cx43) and Pannexin1 (Panx1), but Panx1 expression predominated at the plasma membrane, whereas Cx43 expression was primarily localized to the cytosol. The contribution of bystander effects to the reduction of solid tumor xenografts established by the PC-3 cell line was evaluated in an animal model. We demonstrate the contribution of bystander cell killing to tumor regression in a xenograft model relying on the delivery of expression of the TMPK suicide gene into tumors via direct intratumoral injection of recombinant therapeutic lentivirus. Taken together, our data underscore that the TMPK/AZT enzyme-prodrug axis can be effectively utilized in suicide gene therapy of solid tumors, wherein significant tumor regression can be achieved via bystander effects mediated by GJICs.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)