Research Papers:

Co-application of canavanine and irradiation uncouples anticancer potential of arginine deprivation from citrulline availability

Yuliya Kurlishchuk, Bozhena Vynnytska-Myronovska, Philipp Grosse-Gehling, Yaroslav Bobak, Friederike Manig, Oleg Chen, Sebastian R. Merker, Thomas Henle, Steffen Löck, Daniel E. Stange, Oleh Stasyk and Leoni A. Kunz-Schughart _

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Oncotarget. 2016; 7:73292-73308. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.12320

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Yuliya Kurlishchuk1,2, Bozhena Vynnytska-Myronovska1,2,6, Philipp Grosse-Gehling1, Yaroslav Bobak2, Friederike Manig1,3, Oleg Chen1,2, Sebastian R. Merker4, Thomas Henle3, Steffen Löck1, Daniel E. Stange4, Oleh Stasyk2, Leoni A. Kunz-Schughart1,5

1OncoRay–National Center for Radiation Research in Oncology, Faculty of Medicine and University Hospital Carl Gustav Carus, TU Dresden and Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf, Institute of Radiooncology, Dresden, Germany

2Department of Cell Signaling, Institute of Cell Biology, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, Lviv, Ukraine

3Institute of Food Chemistry, TU Dresden, Dresden, Germany

4Department of Gastrointestinal, Thoracic and Vascular Surgery, University Hospital Carl Gustav Carus, TU Dresden, Dresden, Germany

5Department of Oncology, University of Oxford, Old Road Campus Research Building, Oxford, UK

6Current address: Clinic of Urology and Pediatric Urology, Saarland University Medical Center, Homburg/Saar, Germany

Correspondence to:

Leoni A. Kunz-Schughart, email: [email protected]

Keywords: arginine deprivation, ASS1 expression, colorectal cancer (CRC), CRC spheroids, normal colon organoids

Received: January 27, 2016     Accepted: September 19, 2016     Published: September 28, 2016


The moderate anticancer effect of arginine deprivation in clinical trials has been linked to an induced argininosuccinate synthetase (ASS1) expression in initially ASS1-negative tumors, and ASS1-positive cancers are anticipated as non-responders. Our previous studies indicated that arginine deprivation and low doses of the natural arginine analog canavanine can enhance radioresponse. However, the efficacy of the proposed combination in the presence of extracellular citrulline, the substrate for arginine synthesis by ASS1, remains to be elucidated, in particular for malignant cells with positive and/or inducible ASS1 as in colorectal cancer (CRC). Here, the physiological citrulline concentration of 0.05 mM was insufficient to overcome cell cycle arrest and radiosensitization triggered by arginine deficiency. Hyperphysiological citrulline (0.4 mM) did not entirely compensate for the absence of arginine and significantly decelerated cell cycling. Similar levels of canavanine-induced apoptosis were detected in the absence of arginine regardless of citrulline supplementation both in 2-D and advanced 3-D assays, while normal colon epithelial cells in organoid/colonosphere culture were unaffected. Notably, canavanine tremendously enhanced radiosensitivity of arginine-starved 3-D CRC spheroids even in the presence of hyperphysiological citrulline. We conclude that the novel combinatorial targeting strategy of metabolic-chemo-radiotherapy has great potential for the treatment of malignancies with inducible ASS1 expression.

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