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Nat Biotechnol. 1998 May;16(5):440-3.

Intercellular delivery of functional p53 by the herpesvirus protein VP22.

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Marie Curie Research Institute, Surrey, UK.


The herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) virion protein VP22 exhibits the remarkable property of intercellular trafficking whereby the protein spreads from the cell in which it is synthesized to many surrounding cells. In addition to having implications for protein trafficking mechanisms, this function of VP22 might be exploited to overcome a major hurdle in gene therapy, i.e., efficient delivery of genes and gene products. We show that chimeric polypeptides, consisting of VP22 linked to the entire p53 protein, retain their ability to spread between cells and accumulate in recipient cell nuclei. Furthermore the p53-VP22 chimeric protein efficiently induces apoptosis in p53 negative human osteosarcoma cells resulting in a widespread cytotoxic effect. The intercellular delivery of functional p53-VP22 fusion protein is likely to prove beneficial in therapeutic strategies based on restoration of p53 function. These results, demonstrating intracellular transport of large functional proteins, indicate that VP22 delivery may have applications in gene therapy.

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