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Logo of nihpaAbout Author manuscriptsSubmit a manuscriptNIH Public Access; Author Manuscript; Accepted for publication in peer reviewed journal;
Mol Cancer Ther. Author manuscript; available in PMC Nov 1, 2009.
Published in final edited form as:
PMCID: PMC2680208

Gene silencing for epidermal growth factor receptor variant III induces cell-specific cytotoxicity


Epidermal growth factor receptor variant III (EGFRvIII) is a constitutively active mutant form of EGFR that is expressed in 40% to 50% of gliomas and several other malignancies. Here, we describe the therapeutic effects of silencing EGFRvIII on glioma cell lines in vitro and in vivo. A small interfering RNA molecule against EGFRvIII was introduced into EGFRvIII-expressing glioma cells (U87Δ) by electroporation resulting in complete inhibition of expression of EGFRvIII as early as 48 h post-treatment. During EGFRvIII silencing, a decrease in the proliferation and invasiveness of U87Δ cells was accompanied by an increase in apoptosis (P < 0.05). Notably, EGFRvIII silencing inhibited the signal transduction machinery downstream of EGFRvIII as evidenced by decreases in the activated levels of Ras and extracellular signal-regulated kinase. A lentivirus capable of expressing anti-EGFRvIII short hairpin RNA was also able to achieve progressive silencing of EGFRvIII in U87Δ cells in addition to inhibiting cell proliferation, invasiveness, and colony formation in a significant manner (P < 0.05). Silencing EGFRvIII in U87Δ cultures with this virus reduced the expression of factors involved in epithelial-mesenchymal transition including N-cadherin, β-catenin, Snail, Slug, and paxillin but not E-cadherin. The anti-EGFRvIII lentivirus also affected the cell cycle progression of U87Δ cells with a decrease in G1 and increase in S and G2 fractions. In an in vivo model, tumor growth was completely inhibited in severe combined immunodeficient mice (n = 10) injected s.c. with U87Δ cells treated with the anti-EGFRvIII lentivirus (P = 0.005). We conclude that gene specific silencing of EGFRvIII is a promising strategy for treating cancers that contain this mutated receptor.

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