A bioengineered arginine-depleting enzyme as a long-lasting therapeutic agent against cancer

Sai Fung Chung, Chi Fai Kim, Suet Ying Tam, Man Chung Choi, Pui Kin So, Kwok Yin Wong, Yun Chung Leung, Wai Hung Lo

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Abstract: l-Arginine (L-Arg) depletion has attracted great attention in cancer therapy. Although two types of arginine-depleting enzymes, arginine deiminase (ADI) and human arginase I, are undergoing clinical trials, random site of PEGylation, low efficacy of heavy metal as co-factor, and immunogenicity limit the performance of these drugs and cause difficulty in a homogeneous production. Here we screened ten catalytic metal ions and have successfully produced a site-specific mono-PEGylated human arginase I mutant by conjugating the Cys45 residue to PEG-maleimide to minimize the decrease in activity and produce a homogeneous product. The catalytic efficiency trend of metal ion–enriched human arginase I mutant (HAI) was Co2+ > Ni2+ ≫ Mn2+. The overall kcat/KM values of Co-HAI and Ni-HAI were higher than Mn-HAI by ~ 8.7- and ~ 5.2-folds, respectively. Moreover, the results of enzyme kinetics and circular dichroism spectrometry demonstrated that the 20 or 40 kDa linear and branched PEG attached on the HAI surface did not affect the enzyme activity and the protein secondary structures. In vitro studies showed that both Co-HAI-PEG20L and Ni-HAI-PEG20L inhibited the growth of eight types of cancer cell lines. The pharmacodynamic study in mice demonstrated that the i.p. administration of Co-HAI-PEG20L at 13 mg/kg and Ni-HAI-PEG20L at 15 mg/kg was able to maintain a L-Arg level below its detection limit for over 120 h after one injection. The body weights of mice could return to normal levels within 5 days after injection, showing that the doses were well-tolerated. Therefore, both the Ni-HAI-PEG20L and Co-HAI-PEG20L are promising candidates for cancer therapy. Key Points: • Mono-PEGylation applied on human arginase I mutant (HAI) successfully. • The catalytic efficiency of Co- and Ni-enriched HAI was higher than the wild type. • At least eight types of cancer cell lines were inhibited by Co- and Ni-HAI-PEG20L. • Co- and Ni-HAI-PEG20L were able to achieve weekly depletion of L-Arg. [Figure not available: see fulltext.]

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3921-3934
Number of pages14
JournalApplied Microbiology and Biotechnology
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2020


  • Divalent metal ions
  • Human arginase I
  • L-Arg
  • Pharmacodynamics
  • Site-specific mono-PEGylation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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