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Leuk Lymphoma. 2005 May;46(5):743-52.

Assessment of the cellular response to the induced expression of defensin sense and antisense cDNA in acute promyelocytic leukemia cell lines.

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Department of Haematology, Wales College of Medicine, Biology, Life and Health Sciences, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK.


Defensins are 20-30 amino acid-long, cystine- and arginine-rich peptides that constitute more than 5% of the total cellular proteins in mature granulocytes and at least 30% of proteins in primary granules. Human defensins were reported to have antimicrobial, antifungal, antiviral and tumor lysis activities. Defensin mRNA was isolated using the differential display technique from the well-characterized all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA)-responsive acute promyelocytic leukemia cell line, NB4. The differential display analysis showed an up-regulation of defensin mRNA in NB4 cells after treatment with 10(-7) M ATRA for 24 h. This expression was not seen in an NB4:R2 cell line, an ATRA-resistant subclone of NB4 cells. In order to investigate further the effects of this gene on our cellular model, we virally infected our cells with full-length defensin cDNA in the sense and antisense directions. Sense defensin induced cell growth arrest and cell death in both cell lines. While NB4 cells died within 48-73 h, NB4:R2 cells survived for 96 h before dying in culture. Phenotypic analysis showed high expression of Annexin V in sense-infected cells compared with antisense and uninfected cells in both cell lines. There was not a significant increase in CD11b expression in any of the 2 cell lines used. No cellular response was encountered in antisense-infected cells. Our data suggest that defensin is not only a reliable marker for granulocytic differentiation, but can also be considered a candidate target for molecular therapy in acute promyelocytic leukemia.

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