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J Biol Chem. 2001 Nov 16;276(46):43095-102. Epub 2001 Sep 12.

Endowing human pancreatic ribonuclease with toxicity for cancer cells.

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


Onconase is an amphibian protein that is now in Phase III clinical trials as a cancer chemotherapeutic. Human pancreatic ribonuclease (RNase 1) is homologous to Onconase but is not cytotoxic. Here, ERDD RNase 1, which is the L86E/N88R/G89D/R91D variant of RNase 1, is shown to have conformational stability and ribonucleolytic activity similar to that of the wild-type enzyme but > 10(3)-fold less affinity for the endogenous cytosolic ribonuclease inhibitor protein. Most significantly, ERDD RNase 1 is toxic to human leukemia cells. The addition of a non-native disulfide bond to ERDD RNase 1 not only increases the conformational stability of the enzyme but also increases its cytotoxicity such that its IC(50) value is only 8-fold greater than that of Onconase. Thus, only a few amino acid substitutions are necessary to make a human protein toxic to human cancer cells. This finding has significant implications for human cancer chemotherapy.

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