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Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2004 Aug 20;321(2):403-12.

Cytotoxicity of the novel anti-cancer drug rViscumin depends on HER-2 levels in SKOV-3 cells.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Philipps-University School of Medicine, Marburg, Germany.


rViscumin is a recombinant mistletoe lectin under clinical investigation as new anti-cancer drug. The relationship between oncogene, e.g., HER-2/neu (c-erbB2) receptor activation and tumor cell chemosensitivity, is of considerable importance to better predict the response to chemotherapy. Here, we analyze the cellular and molecular effects of HER-2 expression on rViscumin chemotoxicity in SKOV-3 cells. We show that selective depletion of HER-2 by ribozyme-targeting markedly decreases cellular sensitivity towards rViscumin. These findings are confirmed by treatment with the well-established inhibitory HER-2 antibody trastuzumab (Herceptin). Using clonal ribozyme-transfected cell lines, we establish a 'HER-2 gene dose' dependence of rViscumin cytotoxicity, which is due to differential induction of apoptosis and is not mediated by cell cycle alterations or altered cellular rViscumin binding/internalization. We further demonstrate an rViscumin-mediated, HER-2-dependent down-regulation of bcl-2 and the dose-dependent activation of members of the MAPK family, p42/44, SAPK/JNK, and p38, but not of caspases-3 and -7.

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