A locked, dimeric CXCL12 variant effectively inhibits pulmonary metastasis of CXCR4-expressing melanoma cells due to enhanced serum stability

Mol Cancer Ther. 2012 Nov;11(11):2516-25. doi: 10.1158/1535-7163.MCT-12-0494. Epub 2012 Aug 6.


The CXC chemokine receptor-4 (CXCR4) plays a critical role in cancer by positively regulating cancer cell metastasis and survival. We previously showed that high concentrations of the CXCR4 ligand, wild-type CXCL12 (wtCXCL12), could inhibit colorectal cancer metastasis in vivo, and we have hypothesized that wtCXCL12 dimerizes at high concentration to become a potent antagonist of CXCR4. To address this hypothesis, we engineered a covalently locked, dimeric variant of CXCL12 (CXCL122). Herein, we show that CXCL122 can not only inhibit implantation of lung metastasis of CXCR4-B16-F10 melanoma cells more effectively than AMD3100, but that CXCL122 also blocks the growth of established pulmonary tumors. To identify a basis for the in vivo efficacy of CXCL122, we conducted Western blot analysis and ELISA analyses, which revealed that CXCL122 was stable for at least 12 hours in serum, whereas wtCXCL12 was quickly degraded. CXCL122 also maintained its antagonist properties in in vitro chemotaxis assays for up to 24 hours in serum, whereas wtCXCL12 was ineffective after 6 hours. Heat-inactivation of serum prolonged the stability and function of wtCXCL12 by more than 6 hours, suggesting enzymatic degradation as a possible mechanism for wtCXCL12 inactivation. In vitro analysis of amino-terminal cleavage by enzymes dipeptidylpeptidase IV (DPPIV/CD26) and matrix metalloproteinase-2 (MMP-2) resulted in 25-fold and 2-fold slower degradation rates, respectively, of CXCL122 compared with wtCXCL12. In summary, our results suggest CXCL122 possesses greater potential as an antimetastatic drug as compared with AMD3100 or wtCXCL12, potentially due to enhanced serum stability in the presence of N-terminal degrading enzymes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Benzylamines
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Chemokine CXCL12 / blood*
  • Chemokine CXCL12 / pharmacology
  • Chemokine CXCL12 / therapeutic use*
  • Cyclams
  • Dipeptidyl Peptidase 4 / metabolism
  • Heterocyclic Compounds / pharmacology
  • Heterocyclic Compounds / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Lung Neoplasms / secondary*
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 2 / metabolism
  • Melanoma / metabolism
  • Melanoma / pathology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Protein Multimerization* / drug effects
  • Protein Stability / drug effects
  • Receptors, CXCR4 / metabolism*
  • Serum / metabolism


  • Benzylamines
  • Chemokine CXCL12
  • Cyclams
  • Heterocyclic Compounds
  • Receptors, CXCR4
  • DPP4 protein, human
  • Dipeptidyl Peptidase 4
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 2
  • plerixafor
  • Calcium