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J Biol Chem. 2002 Dec 6;277(49):46974-9. Epub 2002 Sep 25.

An ephrin mimetic peptide that selectively targets the EphA2 receptor.

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Burnham Institute, La Jolla, California 92037, USA.


Eph receptor tyrosine kinases represent promising disease targets because they are differentially expressed in pathologic versus normal tissues. The EphA2 receptor is up-regulated in transformed cells and tumor vasculature where it likely contributes to cancer pathogenesis. To exploit EphA2 as a therapeutic target, we used phage display to identify two related peptides that bind selectively to EphA2 with high affinity (submicromolar K(D) values). The peptides target the ligand-binding domain of EphA2 and compete with ephrin ligands for binding. Remarkably, one of the peptides has ephrin-like activity in that it stimulates EphA2 tyrosine phosphorylation and signaling. Furthermore, this peptide can deliver phage particles to endothelial and tumor cells expressing EphA2. In contrast, peptides corresponding to receptor-interacting portions of ephrin ligands bind weakly and promiscuously to many Eph receptors. Bioactive ephrin mimetic peptides could be used to selectively deliver agents to Eph receptor-expressing tissues and modify Eph signaling in therapies for cancer, pathological angiogenesis, and nerve regeneration.

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