PloS one

A PCNA-derived cell permeable peptide selectively inhibits neuroblastoma cell growth.

PMID 24728180


Proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA), through its interaction with various proteins involved in DNA synthesis, cell cycle regulation, and DNA repair, plays a central role in maintaining genome stability. We previously reported a novel cancer associated PCNA isoform (dubbed caPCNA), which was significantly expressed in a broad range of cancer cells and tumor tissues, but not in non-malignant cells. We found that the caPCNA-specific antigenic site lies between L126 and Y133, a region within the interconnector domain of PCNA that is known to be a major binding site for many of PCNA's interacting proteins. We hypothesized that therapeutic agents targeting protein-protein interactions mediated through this region may confer differential toxicity to normal and malignant cells. To test this hypothesis, we designed a cell permeable peptide containing the PCNA L126-Y133 sequence. Here, we report that this peptide selectively kills human neuroblastoma cells, especially those with MYCN gene amplification, with much less toxicity to non-malignant human cells. Mechanistically, the peptide is able to block PCNA interactions in cancer cells. It interferes with DNA synthesis and homologous recombination-mediated double-stranded DNA break repair, resulting in S-phase arrest, accumulation of DNA damage, and enhanced sensitivity to cisplatin. These results demonstrate conceptually the utility of this peptide for treating neuroblastomas, particularly, the unfavorable MYCN-amplified tumors.