Improvement of Pharmacokinetic Profile of TRAIL via Trimer-Tag Enhances its Antitumor Activity in vivo

Sci Rep. 2017 Aug 21;7(1):8953. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-09518-1.


TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL/Apo2L) has long been considered a tantalizing target for cancer therapy because it mediates activation of the extrinsic apoptosis pathway in a tumor-specific manner by binding to and trimerizing its functional receptors DR4 or DR5. Despite initial promise, both recombinant human TRAIL (native TRAIL) and dimeric DR4/DR5 agonist monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) failed in multiple human clinical trials. Here we show that in-frame fusion of human C-propeptide of α1(I) collagen (Trimer-Tag) to the C-terminus of mature human TRAIL leads to a disulfide bond-linked homotrimer which can be expressed at high levels as a secreted protein from CHO cells. The resulting TRAIL-Trimer not only retains similar bioactivity and receptor binding kinetics as native TRAIL in vitro which are 4-5 orders of magnitude superior to that of dimeric TRAIL-Fc, but also manifests more favorable pharmacokinetic and antitumor pharmacodynamic profiles in vivo than that of native TRAIL. Taken together, this work provides direct evidence for the in vivo antitumor efficacy of TRAIL being proportional to systemic drug exposure and suggests that the previous clinical failures may have been due to rapid systemic clearance of native TRAIL and poor apoptosis-inducing potency of dimeric agonist mAbs despite their long serum half-lives.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • CHO Cells
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Colonic Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Colonic Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Cricetulus
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Phosphopeptides / chemistry*
  • Procollagen / chemistry*
  • Receptors, TNF-Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand / metabolism
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / administration & dosage*
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / pharmacokinetics
  • TNF-Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand / chemistry
  • TNF-Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand / metabolism*
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • N-propeptide type I collagen
  • Phosphopeptides
  • Procollagen
  • Receptors, TNF-Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • TNF-Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand
  • TNFRSF10A protein, human
  • TNFRSF10B protein, human
  • TNFSF10 protein, human