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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1999 Jul 20;96(15):8699-704.

Herpes simplex virus thymidine kinase/ganciclovir-induced apoptosis involves ligand-independent death receptor aggregation and activation of caspases.

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  • 1Universitäts-Kinderklinik, 89075 Ulm, Germany.


Suicide gene therapy systems such as the herpes simplex thymidine kinase/ganciclovir system (TK/GCV) may kill cancer cells by apoptosis through as yet undefined mechanisms. Here we show that TK/GCV treatment induces p53 accumulation and increases cell surface expression of CD95 and tumor necrosis factor receptor, which is likely to involve p53-mediated translocation of CD95 to the cell surface. TK/GCV-induced apoptosis involves CD95-L-independent CD95 aggregation leading to the formation of a Fas-associated death domain protein (FADD) and caspase-8-containing, death-inducing signaling complex. Dominant negative FADD, the caspase-8 inhibitor zIETD-fmk [Z-Ile-Glu(OMe)-Thr-Asp(OMe)-fluoromethylketone], and zVAD-fmk (Z-Val-Ala-Asp-fluoromethylketone) partially abrogate TK/GCV-induced apoptosis. In addition to apoptosis induction, TK/GCV treatment strongly sensitizes for CD95-L-, TNF-, and TNF-related, apoptosis-inducing, ligand (TRAIL)-induced cell death in constitutively resistant cells. These findings may be used to increase the efficacy of TK/GCV and other suicide gene therapy systems for the treatment of cancer.

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