Lack of specificity of cell-surface protease targeting of a cytotoxic hyperfusogenic gibbon ape leukaemia virus envelope glycoprotein

Lucy A. Kirkham, Andrew R. Bateman, Alan A. Melcher, Richard G. Vile, Adele K. Fielding

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: In a strategy termed "Protease Targeting", retroviral vectors carrying an EGF infectivity-blocking domain fused to the N-terminus of the envelope SU via a MMP (matrix metalloproteinase)-cleavable linker were successfully used to target gene delivery to EGF receptor-(EGF-R-)positive tumour cells over-expressing MMPs. In the current study, we aimed to investigate whether this strategy could be applied to (a) limit the cytotoxic activity of a hyperfusogenic GALV therapeutic gene, and (b) enhance the immune-stimulatory properties of GALV via local, MMP-mediated release human granulocyte-macrophage colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF). Methods: We generated GALV envelope expression constructs displaying EGF or GM-CSF blocking ligands at the N-terminus of GALV envelope SU via a non-cleavable, Factor Xa protease or MMP-cleavable linker and investigated their cytotoxicity on MMP-positive and negative cell lines. Results: The unmodified hyperfusogenic GALV envelope was cytotoxic to all cell lines tested. The non-cleavable linker GALV envelope constructs caused no cytotoxicity, demonstrating efficient inhibition by the displayed domains. Moderate activation of fusion of the protease-cleavable linker constructs was observed in all cell lines, regardless of their level of MMP expression and of the specificity of the linker. High levels of the 'blocking domain' were detected in the cell supernatants due to dissociation of the surface unit (SU) from the transmembrane (TM) component of the GALV envelope glycoprotein TM. Conclusions: Unlike protease targeting in the context of retroviral vectors, protease activation of the cytotoxicity of GALV envelope by cleavage of a fusion blocking ligand at the cell surface does not appear to be specifically mediated by cell-surface MMPs. In addition, shedding of the SU-fusion protein from the TM limits the general applicability of this strategy for cancer gene therapy. Specificity of cell-cell fusion mediated by GALV envelope cannot be manipulated in the same fashion as virus-cell fusion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)592-600
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Gene Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2002


  • Cancer gene therapy
  • Envelope
  • Gibbon ape leukaemia virus (GALV)
  • Matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)
  • Protease targeting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Drug Discovery
  • Genetics(clinical)


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