Improved nonviral cancer suicide gene therapy using survivin promoter-driven mutant Bax

Cancer Gene Ther. 2010 Mar;17(3):155-63. doi: 10.1038/cgt.2009.63. Epub 2009 Oct 9.


Suicide gene vectors are being developed in many laboratories as an attractive approach to cancer therapy. However, the development of these therapies is hampered by safety concerns and limitations of efficacy. The use of tumor-specific promoters, such as survivin promoter, can provide much needed specificity to target tumor cells. However, the expression levels from these promoters is often suboptimal and hence it is imperative to enhance the activity of the cytotoxic gene of interest. We tested apoptotic activity of several mutants of proapoptotic gene bax that constitutively translocate to the mitochondria and induce apoptosis. One of these mutants with deletion of serine at position S184 (S184del) was found to be most active and showed significant antitumor activity when expressed by the survivin promoter. In vitro testing shows that this vector (Sur-BaxS184del) induces cell killing in a variety of tumor cell lines of different origin with significantly higher efficacy than wild-type bax (Sur-BaxWT). The increase in cytotoxicity was a result of enhanced induction of apoptosis in tumor cells. In contrast to cytomegalovirus (CMV) promoter-driven bax (CMV-Bax), Sur-BaxS184del caused minimum toxicity in normal human dermal fibroblasts validating its specificity and safety. In a mouse tumor model (DA-3, murine breast cancer cells), we show that intratumoral injection of Sur-BaxS184del resulted in tumor growth retardation to the same level as CMV-Bax. This study highlights the effectiveness of using bax mutants in combination with survivin promoter for tumor-targeted suicide gene therapy in a nonviral vector.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / genetics
  • Apoptosis / physiology*
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Female
  • Genetic Therapy / methods*
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Inhibitor of Apoptosis Proteins
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins / genetics*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic / genetics*
  • Survivin
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein / genetics*
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein / metabolism*


  • BIRC5 protein, human
  • Inhibitor of Apoptosis Proteins
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins
  • Survivin
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein