Background: Enzyme-activatable prodrugs in conjunction with antibody-enzyme fusion proteins may enhance the anti-tumor efficacy of antibodies and reduce the toxic side effects of conventional chemotherapeutics. Cephalosporins have proven to be highly versatile triggers for the enzymatic activation of such prodrugs.
Results: A cephem prodrug of taxol (PROTAX) was synthesized by substituting the C-3' position of cephalothin with 2'-(gamma-aminobutyryl) taxol. Hydrolysis of PROTAX by beta-lactamase rapidly released 2'-(gamma-aminobutyryl) taxol (kcat/K(M) = (1.4 +/- 0.1) x 10(5) s-1 M-1), which yielded taxol following intramolecular displacement. PROTAX is inactive in a microtubule assembly assay in vitro but has similar activity to taxol following prolonged activation with beta-lactamase. PROTAX is approximately 10-fold less toxic than taxol against SK-BR-3 breast tumor cells in vitro but has activity approaching that of taxol following prolonged activation with a fusion protein comprising beta-lactamase fused to a tumor-targeting antibody fragment.
Conclusions: Tubulin polymerization activity is abolished and cytotoxicity is reduced in the PROTAX prodrug compared to taxol. Activation of PROTAX by beta-lactamase followed by self-immolation restores the activity of PROTAX to that of free taxol.