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Hirschberger, Kristin; Jarzebinska, Anita; Kessel, Eva; Kretzschmann, Verena; Aneja, Manish K.; Dohmen, Christian; Herrmann-Janson, Annika; Wagner, Ernst; Plank, Christian; Rudolph, Carsten (2018): Exploring Cytotoxic mRNAs as a Novel Class of Anti-cancer Biotherapeutics. In: Molecular Therapy-Methods & Clinical Development, Vol. 8: pp. 141-151
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Abstract

New treatments to overcome the obstacles of conventional anticancer therapy are a permanent subject of investigation. One promising approach is the application of toxins linked to cell-specific ligands, so-called immunotoxins. Another attractive option is the employment of toxin-encoding plasmids. However, immunotoxins cause hepatoxicity, and DNA therapeutics, among other disadvantages, bear the risk of insertional mutagenesis. As an alternative, this study examined chemically modified mRNAs coding for diphtheria toxin, subtilase cytotoxin, and abrin-a for their ability to reduce cancer cell growth both in vitro and in vivo. The plant toxin abrin-a was the most promising candidate among the three tested toxins and was further investigated. Its expression was demonstrated by western blot. Experiments with firefly luciferase in reticulocyte lysates and co-transfection experiments with EGFP demonstrated the capability of abrin-a to inhibit protein synthesis. Its cytotoxic effect was quantified employing viability assays and propidium iodide staining. By studying caspase3/7 activation, Annexin V-binding, and chromatin condensation with Hoechst33258 staining, apoptotic cell death could be confirmed. In mice, repeated intratumoral injections of complexed abrin-a mRNA resulted in a significant reduction (89%) of KB tumor size compared to a non-translatable control mRNA.