Design of a cytotoxic neuroblastoma-targeting agent using an enzyme acting on polysialic acid fused to a toxin

Timo Lehti, Maria Pajunen, Anne Jokilammi, Miikka Joojakim Korja, Hauke Lilie, Kim Vettenranta, Jukka Finne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Polysialic acid, an abundant cell surface component of the developing nervous system, which declines rapidly postnatally to virtual absence in the majority of adult tissues, is highly expressed in some malignant tumors including neuroblastoma. We found that the binding of a noncatalytic endosialidase to polysialic acid causes internalization of the complex from the surface of neuroblastoma kSK-N-SH cells, a subline of SK-N-SH, and leads to a complete relocalization of polysialic acid to the intracellular compartment. The binding and uptake of the endosialidase is polysialic acid-dependent as it is inhibited by free excess ligand or removal of polysialic acid by active endosialidase, and does not happen if catalytic endosialidase is used in place of inactive endosialidase. Afusion protein composed of the noncatalytic endosialidase and the cytotoxic portion of diphtheria toxin was prepared to investigate whether the cellular uptake observed could be used for the specific elimination of polysialic acid-containing cells. The conjugate toxin was found to be toxic to polysialic acid-positive kSKN-SH with an IC50 of 1.0 nmol/L. Replacing the noncatalytic endosialidase with active endosialidase decreased the activity to the level of nonconjugated toxin. Normal nonmalignant cells were selectively resistant to the toxin conjugate. The results demonstrate that noncatalytic endosialidase induces a quantitative removal and cellular uptake of polysialic acid from the cell surface which, by conjugation with diphtheria toxin fragment, can be exploited for the selective elimination of polysialic acid-containing tumor cells.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMolecular Cancer Therapeutics
Issue number10
Pages (from-to)1996-2007
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 1182 Biochemistry, cell and molecular biology
  • KDEL
  • SITE

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