Targeted Killing of Monocytes/Macrophages and Myeloid Leukemia Cells with Pro-Apoptotic Peptides

Cancers (Basel). 2019 Jul 31;11(8):1088. doi: 10.3390/cancers11081088.


Several cells of myeloid origin, such as monocytes and macrophages are involved in various human disorders, including cancer and inflammatory diseases. Hence, they represent attractive therapeutic targets. Here we developed three lytic hybrid peptides, by fusing a monocyte- and macrophage-binding peptide to pro-apoptotic peptides, and investigated their killing potency on blood monocytes, macrophages, and leukemia cells. We first showed that the targeting NW peptide is effective for depleting monocytes from whole peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs). Incubating the cells with biotin-conjugated NW peptide, and the subsequent capture on streptavidin-conjugated magnetic beads, depleted monocytes from the PBMCs. The NW peptide also depleted myeloid leukemia blasts from patient PBMCs. The treatment of the PBMCs with the lytic hybrid NW-KLA peptide killed monocytes, but not lymphocytes and primary mammary epithelial cells. Additionally, the fusion peptide exhibited a potent toxicity against macrophages and leukemia cells. The free lytic KLA peptide did not affect cells. Similarly, a second lytic hybrid peptide killed macrophages, leukemia cell lines, and blood leukemia blasts from patients with acute and chronic myeloid leukemia. The IC50 towards target cells were in the low macromolar range (4-12 µM). Overall, the data indicate that the NW peptide could be a potential drug delivery agent for monocytes, macrophages, and leukemia cells. Moreover, the engineered lytic hybrid peptides acting alone, or in combination with other therapeutic agents, might benefit many cancer patients and overcome drug resistance.

Keywords: cancer; immunotherapy; leukemia cells; lytic peptides; macrophages; targeted therapy; tumor microenvironment.