Research Papers:

Potent antitumor activity of oncolytic adenovirus expressing Beclin-1 via induction of autophagic cell death in leukemia

Yin Tong, Liangshun You, Hui Liu, Lu Li, Haitao Meng, Qijun Qian and Wenbin Qian _

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Oncotarget. 2013; 4:860-874. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.1018

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Yin Tong1,*, Liangshun You1,*, Hui Liu1, Lu Li1, Haitao Meng1, Qijun Qian2, Wenbin Qian1*

1. Institute of Hematology, the First Affiliated Hospital, College of Medicine, Zhejiang University, P.R. China

2. Laboratory of Viral and Gene Therapy, Eastern Hepatobiliary Surgery Hospital, Second Military Medical University, P.R. China

* Contributed equally to this work


Wenbin Qian, email:

Keywords: leukemia; oncolytic adenovirus; autophagy; Beclin-1; autophagic cell death; UVRAG

Received: May 15, 2013, Accepted: May 31, 2013, Published: June 3, 2013


An attractive strategy among adenovirus-based oncolytic systems is to design adenoviral vectors to express pro-apoptotic genes, in which this gene-virotherapy approach significantly enhances tumor cell death by activating apoptotic pathways. However, the existence of cancer cells with apoptotic defects is one of the major obstacles in gene-virotherapy. Here, we investigated whether a strategy that combines the oncolytic effects of an adenoviral vector with simultaneous expression of Beclin-1, an autophagy gene, offers a therapeutic advantage for leukemia. A Beclin-1 cDNA was cloned in an oncolytic adenovirus with chimeric Ad5/11 fiber (SG511-BECN). SG511-BECN treatment induced significant autophagic cell death, and resulted in enhanced cell killing in a variety of leukemic cell lines and primary leukemic blasts. SG511-BECN effects were seen in chronic myeloid leukemia and acute myeloid leukemia with resistance to imatinib or chemotherapy, but exhibited much less cytotoxicity on normal cells. The SG511-BECN-induced autophagic cell death could be partially reversed by RNA interference knockdown of UVRAG, ATG5, and ATG7. We also showed that SG511-BECN strongly inhibited the growth of leukemic progenitors in vitro. In murine leukemia models, SG511-BECN prolonged the survival and decreased the xenograft tumor size by inducing autophagic cell death. Our results suggest that infection of leukemia cells with an oncolytic adenovirus overexpressing Beclin-1 can induce significant autophagic cell death and provide a new strategy for the elimination of leukemic cells via a unique mechanism of action distinct from apoptosis.

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