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Gene Ther. 2009 Jul;16(7):849-61. doi: 10.1038/gt.2009.39. Epub 2009 Apr 16.

VSV virotherapy improves chemotherapy by triggering apoptosis due to proteasomal degradation of Mcl-1.

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Department of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Endocrinology, Medical School Hannover, Hannover, Germany.


Overexpression of myeloid cell leukemia 1 protein (Mcl-1), an anti-apoptotic B-cell lymphoma 2 (Bcl-2) family member, contributes to chemotherapy resistance of tumors. The short half-life of Mcl-1 makes it an interesting target for therapeutic agents that negatively interfere with cellular protein biosynthesis, such as oncolytic viruses. Vesicular Stomatitis Virus (VSV) has been established as the oncolytic virus that efficiently disrupts de novo protein biosynthesis of infected cells. Here, we show that after VSV infection, Mcl-1 protein levels rapidly declined, whereas the expression of other members of the Bcl-2 family remained unchanged. Mcl-1 elimination was a consequence of proteasomal degradation, as overexpression of a degradation-resistant Mcl-1 mutant restored Mcl-1 levels. Mcl-1 rescue inhibited apoptosis and thereby confirmed that Mcl-1 downregulation contributes to VSV-induced apoptosis. In vitro, VSV virotherapy in combination with chemotherapy revealed an enhanced therapeutic effect compared with the single treatments, which could be reverted by Mcl-1 rescue or RNA interference (RNAi)-mediated knockdown of pro-apoptotic Bax and Bak proteins. Finally, in a tumor mouse model, combinations of doxorubicin and VSV showed a superior therapeutic efficacy compared with VSV or doxorubicin alone. In summary, our data indicate that VSV virotherapy is an attractive strategy to overcome tumor resistance against conventional chemotherapy by elimination of Mcl-1.

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