Inhibition of glioma growth by tumor-specific activation of double-stranded RNA-dependent protein kinase PKR

Nat Biotechnol. 2002 Sep;20(9):895-900. doi: 10.1038/nbt730. Epub 2002 Aug 19.


Activated double-stranded RNA (dsRNA-dependent protein kinase PKR is a potent growth inhibitory protein that is primarily activated in virally infected cells, inducing cell death. Here we investigate whether selective activation of PKR can be used to kill cancer cells that express mutated genes containing deletions or chromosomal translocations. We show that antisense (AS) RNA complementary to fragments flanking the deletion or translocation can produce a dsRNA molecule of sufficient length to activate PKR and induce cell death following hybridization with mutated but not wild-type mRNA. Using the U87MG Delta EGFR cell line, which expresses a truncated form of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), Delta(2-7) EGFR, we found that expression of a 39-nucleotide (nt) AS RNA complementary to the unique exon 1 to 8 junction caused selective death of cells harboring the truncated EGFR both in vitro and in vivo but did not affect cells expressing wild-type EGFR. A lentiviral vector expressing the 39-nt AS sequence strongly inhibited glioblastoma growth in mouse brain when injected after tumor cell implantation. This PKR-mediated killing strategy may be useful in treating many cancers that express a unique RNA species.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / genetics*
  • Base Sequence
  • Enzyme Activation
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Glioblastoma / genetics*
  • Glioblastoma / physiopathology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Neoplasm Transplantation
  • RNA, Double-Stranded / genetics*
  • eIF-2 Kinase / genetics*
  • eIF-2 Kinase / metabolism*


  • RNA, Double-Stranded
  • eIF-2 Kinase