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Hum Gene Ther. 1998 Jan 20;9(2):185-93.

Induction of cytotoxic oxidative stress by D-alanine in brain tumor cells expressing Rhodotorula gracilis D-amino acid oxidase: a cancer gene therapy strategy.

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Department of Biological Chemistry, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor 48109, USA.


Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is a reactive oxygen species (ROS) generated in the stereoselective deamination of D-amino acids catalyzed by D-amino acid oxidase (DAAO). H2O2 readily crosses cellular membranes and damages DNA, proteins, and lipids. The scarcity of DAAO substrates in mammalian organisms and its co-localization with catalase in the peroxisomal matrix suggested that the cytotoxicity of ROS could be harnessed by administration of D-amino acids to tumor cells ectopically expressing DAAO in the cytoplasm. To evaluate this hypothesis, the cDNA encoding the highly active DAAO from the red yeast Rhodotorula gracilis was mutated to remove the carboxy-terminal peroxisomal targeting sequence. A clonal line of 9L glioma cells stably transfected with this construct (9Ldaao17) was found to synthesize active R. gracilis DAAO. Exposure of 9Ldaao17 cells to D-alanine resulted in cytotoxicity at concentrations that were nontoxic to parental 9L cells. Depletion of cellular glutathione further sensitized 9Ldaao17 cells to D-alanine (D-Ala). This result, combined with stimulation of pentose phosphate pathway activity and the production of extracellular H2O2 by 9Ldaao17 cells incubated with D-alanine implicates oxidative stress as the mediator of cytotoxicity. These results demonstrate that expression of R. gracilis DAAO in tumor cells confers chemosensitivity to D-alanine that could be exploited as a novel cancer gene therapy paradigm.

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