Antitumor activity and bystander effects of the tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) gene

Shunsuke Kagawa, Chao He, Jian Gu, Patricia Koch, Suk Joo Rha, Jack A. Roth, Steven A. Curley, L. Clifton Stephens, Bingliang Fang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

206 Citations (Scopus)


Tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) has been reported to specifically kill malignant cells but to be relatively nontoxic to normal cells. To evaluate the antitumor activity and therapeutic value of the TRAIL gene, we constructed adenoviral vectors expressing the human TRAIL gene and transferred them into malignant cells in vitro and tumors in vivo. The in vitro transfer elicited apoptosis, as demonstrated by the quantification of viable or apoptotic cells and by the analysis of activation of pro-caspase-8 and cleavage of poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase. The intratumoral delivery elicited tumor cell apoptosis and suppressed tumor growth. In comparison with Bar gene treatment, which is toxic to normal cells, TRAIL gene treatment caused no detectable toxicity in cultured normal fibroblasts nor in mouse hepatocytes after systemic gene delivery. Furthermore, coculture of cancer cells expressing TRAIL with those expressing green fluorescent protein (GFP) resulted in apoptosis of both cells, whereas coculture of Bax-expressing cells with GFP-expressing cells resulted in the cell death of the Bax-expressing cells only, which suggested that the transfer of the TRAIL gene resulted in bystander effects. Moreover, culture of cells with medium from TRAIL-expressing cells showed the proapoptotic activity and bystander effect of the TRAIL gene to be not transferable with medium. To further demonstrate the bystander effect of the TRAIL gene, we constructed plasmid vectors encoding GFP-TRAIL or GFP-Bik chimeric proteins. Transfection of the GFP-TRAIL gene into cancer cells resulted in the death of GFP-positive cells and their neighbors, whereas transfection of the GFP-Bik gene killed GFP-positive cells only. Finally, GFP-TRAIL genes, transfected into normal human fibroblasts or bronchial epithelial cells, did not kill such cells, whereas transfected GFP-Bik genes did. Thus, the direct transfer of the TRAIL gene led to selective killing of malignant cells with bystander effect, which suggests that the TRAIL gene could be valuable for treatment for cancers. Together, these results suggest that delivering the TRAIL gene to cancerous cells may be an alternative approach to cancer treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3330-3338
Number of pages9
JournalCancer Research
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Apr 15 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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