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Cancer Res. 1988 Dec 15;48(24 Pt 1):7072-8.

Comparison of the pharmacokinetics and hepatotoxic effects of saporin and ricin A-chain immunotoxins on murine liver parenchymal cells.

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  • 1Drug Targeting Laboratory, Imperial Cancer Research Fund, Lincoln's Inn Fields, London, England.


Immunotoxins containing the ribosome-inactivating protein, saporin, are very effective antitumor agents but are highly toxic to mice. They induce severe necrotic lesions in the liver parenchyma of the recipients. Such extensive damage to the liver parenchyma is not observed with ricin A-chain immunotoxins even at 5-fold higher dosage. The hepatotoxicity of the saporin immunotoxins was found in the present study to arise from a combination of two effects. First, saporin and saporin immunotoxins were 30- and 6-fold more toxic to primary cultures of mouse liver parenchymal cells than were ricin A-chain and ricin A-chain immunotoxins, respectively. This was despite the fact that the cells bound 4- to 5-fold less saporin or saporin immunotoxins than ricin A-chain or ricin A-chain immunotoxins. The binding of ricin A-chain and its immunotoxin to the cells was mediated through the carbohydrate residues present on the A-chain whereas saporin is not glycosylated and thus must bind to other sites on the cell surface which result in transport of saporin relatively efficiently to the cytosol. The second reason for the hepatotoxic action of the saporin immunotoxin was that it had a longer blood half-life (t 1/2 alpha = 1.1 h; t 1/2 beta = 17.1 h) than the ricin A-chain immunotoxin (t 1/2 = 0.52 h; t 1/2 beta = 9.7 h). Analyses using a two-compartment pharmacokinetic model showed that the two immunotoxins broke down in vivo to give free antibody at a similar rate (t 1/2 = 10-12 h) but that the ricin A-chain immunotoxin was eliminated 11 times more rapidly than the saporin immunotoxin by routes other than breakdown. It was calculated that, in mice given a median lethal dose of saporin immunotoxin, the blood levels of immunotoxin remained above the concentration that killed 50% of parenchymal cells in vitro for more than 48 h. In mice given a median lethal dose of ricin A-chain immunotoxin, the blood levels fell below the concentration that was toxic to parenchymal cells in vitro within 4 h. The longer blood half-life of the saporin immunotoxin may also explain our previous finding that it had antitumor activity superior to that of a ricin A-chain immunotoxin in mice.

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