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Oncotarget. 2014 Apr 15;5(7):1805-11.

Utilization of Rad51C promoter for transcriptional targeting of cancer cells.

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School of Life Sciences and Technology, Tongji University, Shanghai, China.


Cancer therapy that specifically targets malignant cells with minimal or no toxicity to normal tissue has been a long-standing goal of cancer research. Rad51 expression is elevated in a wide range of cancers and Rad51 promoter has been used to transcriptionally target tumor cells, however, a large size of Rad51 promoter limits its application for gene therapy. To identify novel tumor-specific promoters, we examined expression levels of Rad51 paralogs, Rad51B, Rad51C, and Rad51D as well as Rad52 in a panel of normal and tumor cell lines. We found that Rad51C is significantly overexpressed in cancer cells. The expression was up-regulated by approximately 6-fold at the mRNA level and 9-fold at the protein level. Interestingly, the 2064 bp long Rad51C promoter fragment was approximately 300-fold higher in cancer cells than in normal cells. A construct containing Rad51C promoter driving diphtheria toxin A efficiently killed several types of cancer cells with very mild effect to normal cells. These results underscore the potential of targeting the homologous recombination pathway in cancer cells and provide a proof of principle that the Rad51C promoter fragment can be used to transcriptionally target cancer cells.

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