Antitumor activity of ribonuclease multimers created by site-specific covalent tethering

Bioconjug Chem. 2010 Sep 15;21(9):1691-702. doi: 10.1021/bc100292x.


Site-specific cross-linking can generate homogeneous multimeric proteins of defined valency. Pancreatic-type ribonucleases are an especially attractive target, as their natural dimers can enter mammalian cells, evade the cytosolic ribonuclease inhibitor (RI), and exert their toxic ribonucleolytic activity. Here, we report on the use of eight distinct thiol-reactive cross-linking reagents to produce dimeric and trimeric conjugates of four pancreatic-type ribonucleases. Both the site of conjugation and, to a lesser extent, the propinquity of the monomers within the conjugate modulate affinity for RI, and hence cytotoxicity. Still, the cytotoxicity of the multimers is confounded in vitro by their increased hydrodynamic radius, which attenuates cytosolic entry. A monomeric RI-evasive variant of bovine pancreatic ribonuclease (RNase A) inhibits the growth of human prostate and lung tumors in mice. An RI-evasive trimeric conjugate inhibits tumor growth at a lower dose and with less frequent administration than does the monomer. This effect is attributable to an enhanced persistence of the trimers in circulation. On a molecular basis, the trimer is ∼300-fold more efficacious and as well tolerated as erlotinib, which is in clinical use for the treatment of lung cancer. These data encourage the development of mammalian ribonucleases for the treatment of human cancers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / chemistry
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents / toxicity*
  • Cattle
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / chemistry
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / toxicity*
  • Erlotinib Hydrochloride
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Protein Binding / drug effects
  • Quinazolines / chemistry
  • Quinazolines / pharmacology
  • Quinazolines / toxicity
  • Ribonuclease, Pancreatic / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Ribonuclease, Pancreatic / chemistry
  • Ribonuclease, Pancreatic / metabolism
  • Sulfhydryl Compounds / chemistry
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Quinazolines
  • Sulfhydryl Compounds
  • Erlotinib Hydrochloride
  • Ribonuclease, Pancreatic