Pegylated derivatives of recombinant human arginase (rhArg1) for sustained in vivo activity in cancer therapy: Preparation, characterization and analysis of their pharmacodynamics in vivo and in vitro and action upon hepatocellular carcinoma cell (HCC)

Sam Mui Tsui, Wai Man Lam, Tin Lun Lam, Hiu Chi Chong, Pui Kin So, Sui Yi Kwok, Simon Arnold, Paul Cheng, Denys N. Wheatley, Wai Hung Lo, Yun Chung Leung

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50 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Protein used in medicine, e.g. interferon, are immunogenic and quickly broken down by the body. Pegylation is a recognized way of preserving their integrity and reducing immune reactions, and works well with enzymes used to degrade amino acids, a recent focus of attention in controlling cancer growth. Of the two arginine-degrading enzymes being explored clinically, arginine deiminase is a decidedly foreign mycoplasm-derived enzyme, whereas human arginase 1 is a native liver enzyme. Both have been pegylated, the former with adjuncts of 20 kD, the latter with 5 kD PEG. Pegylation is done by several different methods, not all of which are satisfactory or desirable. Methods: The preparation of novel polyethylene glycol (PEG) derivatives for modifying proteins is described, but directed specifically at pegylation of recombinant human arginase 1 (rhArg1). rhArg1 expressed in Escherichia coli was purified and coupled in various ways with 5 different PEG molecules to compare their protective properties and the residual enzyme activity, using hepatocellular cell lines both in vitro and in vivo. Results: Methoxypolyethylene glycol-succinimidyl propionate (mPEG-SPA 5,000) coupled with very high affinity under mild conditions. The resulting pegylated enzyme (rhArg1-peg5,000 mw) had up to 6 PEG chains of 5K length which not only protected it from degradation and any residual immunogenicity, but most importantly let it retain >90% of its native catalytic activity. It remained efficacious in depleting arginine in rats after a single ip injection of 1,500 U of the conjugate as the native enzyme, plasma arginine falling to >0.05 μM from ∼170 μM within 20 min and lasting 6 days. The conjugate had almost the same efficacy as unpegylated rhArg1 on 2 cultured human liver cancer (HCC) cell lines. It was considerably more effective than 4 other pegylated conjugates prepared. Conclusion: Valuable data on the optimization of the pegylation procedure and choice of ligand that best stabilizes the enzyme arginase 1 are presented, a protocol that should equally fit many other enzymes and proteins. It is a long lasting arginine-depleting enzyme in vivo which will greatly improve its use in anti-cancer therapy.
Original languageEnglish
Article number9
JournalCancer Cell International
Publication statusPublished - 17 Apr 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Genetics
  • Cancer Research

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