Research Papers:

An anti-cancer WxxxE-containing azurin polypeptide inhibits Rac1-dependent STAT3 and ERK/GSK-3β signaling in breast cancer cells

Zhe Zhang, Zhiyong Luo, Wenpu Min, Lin Zhang, Yaqun Wu and Xiaopeng Hu _

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Oncotarget. 2017; 8:43091-43103. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.17759

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Zhe Zhang1, Zhiyong Luo1, Wenpu Min2, Lin Zhang1, Yaqun Wu1 and Xiaopeng Hu1

1Department of Breast and Thyroid Surgery, Division of General Surgery, Tongji Hospital, Tongji Medical College, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, People’s Republic of China

2The First People’s Hospital of Jingzhou, Jingzhou, People’s Republic of China

Correspondence to:

Xiaopeng Hu, email: [email protected]

Keywords: WxxxE motif, azurin protein, Rac1, anti-cancer polypeptide, breast cancer

Received: February 8, 2017    Accepted: March 28, 2017    Published: May 10, 2017


In our previous study, we characterized a mycoplasmal small GTPase-like polypeptide of 240 amino acids that possesses an N-terminal WVLGE sequence. The N-terminal WVLGE sequence promotes activation of Rac1 and subsequent host cancer cell proliferation. To investigate the function of the WxxxE motif in the interaction with Rac1 and host tumor progression, we synthesized a 35-amino acid WVLGE-containing polypeptide derived from a cell-penetrating peptide derived from the azurin protein. We verified that the WVLGE-containing polypeptide targeted MCF-7 cells rather than MCF-10A cells. However, the WVLGE-containing polypeptide inhibited activation of Rac1 and induced cellular phenotypes that resulted from inhibition of Rac1. In addition, the WVLGE-containing polypeptide down-regulated phosphorylation of the STAT3 and ERK/GSK-3β signaling pathways, and this effect was abolished by either stimulation or inhibition of Rac1 activity. We also found that the WVLGE-containing polypeptide has a Rac1-dependent potential to suppress breast cancer growth in vitro and in vivo. We suggest that by acting as a Rac1 inhibitor, this novel polypeptide may be useful for the treatment of breast cancer.

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