Brevinin-2R1 semi-selectively kills cancer cells by a distinct mechanism, which involves the lysosomal-mitochondrial death pathway

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Brevinin-2R is a novel non-hemolytic defensin that was isolated from the skin of the frog Rana ridibunda. It exhibits preferential cytotoxicity towards malignant cells, including Jurkat (T-cell leukemia), BJAB (B-cell lymphoma), HT29/219, SW742 (colon carcinomas), L929 (fibrosarcoma), MCF-7 (breast adenocarcinoma), A549 (lung carcinoma), as compared to primary cells including peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC), T cells and human lung fibroblasts. Jurkat and MCF-7 cells overexpressing Bcl2, and L929 and MCF-7 over-expressing a dominant-negative mutant of a pro-apoptotic BNIP3 (ΔTM-BNIP3) were largely resistant towards Brevinin-2R treatment. The decrease in mitochondrial membrane potential (ΔΨm), or total cellular ATP levels, and increased reactive oxygen species (ROS) production, but not caspase activation or the release of apoptosis-inducing factor (AIF) or endonuclease G (Endo G), were early indicators of Brevinin-2R-triggered death. Brevinin-2R interacts with both early and late endosomes. Lysosomal membrane permeabilization inhibitors and inhibitors of cathepsin-B and cathepsin-L prevented Brevinin-2R-induced cell death. Autophagosomes have been detected upon Brevinin-2R treatment. Our results show that Brevinin-2R activates the lysosomalmitochondrial death pathway, and involves autophagy-like cell death.

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