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J Biol Chem. 2000 Apr 7;275(14):9893-6.

A ribonuclease A variant with low catalytic activity but high cytotoxicity.

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Department of Biochemistry, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, USA.


Onconase, a homolog of ribonuclease A (RNase A) with low ribonucleolytic activity, is cytotoxic and has efficacy as a cancer chemotherapeutic. Here variants of RNase A were used to probe the interplay between ribonucleolytic activity and evasion of the cytosolic ribonuclease inhibitor protein (RI) in the cytotoxicity of ribonucleases. K41R/G88R RNase A is a less active catalyst than G88R RNase A but, surprisingly, is more cytotoxic. Like Onconase, the K41R/G88R variant has a low affinity for RI, which apparently compensates for its low ribonucleolytic activity. In contrast, K41A/G88R RNase A, which has the same affinity for RI as does the K41R/G88R variant, is not cytotoxic. The nontoxic K41A/G88R variant is a much less active catalyst than is the toxic K41R/G88R variant. These data indicate that maintaining sufficient ribonucleolytic activity in the presence of RI is a requirement for a homolog or variant of RNase A to be cytotoxic. This principle can guide the design of new chemotherapeutics based on homologs and variants of RNase A.

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