Overexpression of specific transcription factors by tumor cells can be exploited to regulate expression of proteins that induce apoptosis or activate prodrugs, thereby producing tumor-selective toxicity. A majority of advanced-stage neuroblastomas overexpress the transcription factor N-MYC, and this overexpression is associated with poor prognosis. This study describes regulation of expression by N-MYC, via the ornithine decarboxylase (ODC) promoter, of a rabbit liver carboxylesterase (CE) that activates the prodrug CPT-11. Chloramphenicol acetyltransferase reporter assays and CE activity assays in transiently transfected neuroblastoma cell lines (SJNB-1, SJNB-4, NB-1691) and rhabdomyosarcoma cell lines (JR1neo20, JR1Nmyc6, JR1Nmyc9) support this approach as a potential method for sensitizing tumor cells to CPT-11. Clonogenic assays with IMR32 human neuroblastoma cells which express N-MYC and that had been stably transfected with a plasmid containing an ODC promoter/CE cassette corroborated results of enzyme activity assays. Specifically, IMR32.ODC.CE cells expressed approximately eightfold more CE activity than IMR32.CMV.neo cells; and 5 μM CPT-11 reduced the clonogenic potential of IMR32.ODC.CE cells to zero, while 50 μM CPT-11 was required to produce the same effect with IMR32.CMV.neo cells. Current experiments focus on adenoviral delivery of an ODC promoter/CE cDNA cassette for potential virus-directed enzyme prodrug therapy applications.
Pawlik, C. A., Iyengar, R. V., Krull, E. J., Mason, S. E., Khanna, R., Harris, L. C., … Guichard, S. M. (2000). Use of the ornithine decarboxylase promoter to achieve N-MYC-mediated overexpression of a rabbit carboxylesterase to sensitize neuroblastoma cells to CPT-11. Molecular Therapy, 1(5), 457–463. https://doi.org/10.1006/mthe.2000.0064