The objective of this study was to develop and explore a novel CD133-targeting immunotoxin (IT) for use in combination with the endosomal escape method photochemical internalization (PCI). scFvCD133/rGelonin was recombinantly constructed by fusing a gene (scFvCD133) encoding the scFv that targets both non-glycosylated and glycosylated forms of both human and murine CD133/prominin-1 to a gene encoding the ribosome-inactivating protein (RIP) gelonin (rGelonin). RIP-activity was assessed in a cell-free translation assay. Selective binding and intracellular accumulation of scFvCD133/rGelonin was evaluated by flow cytometry and fluorescence microscopy. PCI of scFvCD133/rGelonin was explored in CD133high and CD133low cell lines and a CD133neg cell line, where cytotoxicity was evaluated by the MTT assay. scFvCD133/rGelonin exhibited superior binding to and a higher accumulation in CD133high cells compared to CD133low cells. No cytotoxic responses were detected in either CD133high or CD133low cells after 72 h incubation with <100 nM scFvCD133/rGelonin. Despite a severe loss in RIP-activity of scFvCD133/rGelonin compared to free rGelonin, PCI of scFvCD133/rGelonin induced log-fold reduction of viability compared to PCI of rGelonin. Strikingly, PCI of scFvCD133/rGelonin exceeded the cytotoxicity of PCI of rGelonin also in CD133low cells. In conclusion, PCI promotes strong cytotoxic activity of the per se non-toxic scFvCD133/rGelonin in both CD133high and CD133low cancer cells.
Keywords: CD133; cancer stem cells; drug delivery; immunotoxins; photochemical internalization; photodynamic therapy; prominin-1; ribosome-inactivating proteins.