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The peptide derived from the Ig-like domain of human herpesvirus 8 K1 protein induces death in hematological cancer cells

Urszula Daniluk12, Celine Kerros1, Rong-Hua Tao1, Jillian F Wise1, Xue Ao1, Zuzana Berkova1* and Felipe Samaniego13

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Lymphoma and Myeloma, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, 1515 Holcombe Blvd, Houston, TX, 77030, USA

2 Department of Pediatrics, Gastroenterology and Allergology, Medical University of Bialystok, ul. Waszyngtona 17, Bialystok, 15-274, Poland

3 Department of Immunology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, 1515 Holcombe Blvd, Houston, TX, 77030, USA

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Journal of Experimental & Clinical Cancer Research 2012, 31:69  doi:10.1186/1756-9966-31-69

Published: 28 August 2012



Although significant progress has been made in the treatment of lymphomas, many lymphomas exhibit resistance to cell death, suggesting a defective Fas signaling, which remains poorly understood. We previously reported that cells expressing the K1 protein of human herpesvirus 8 (HHV-8) resist death through the complex formation of the Ig-like domain of K1 with Fas. Recently, we investigated whether peptides derived from the Ig-like domain of the K1 protein may affect cell death.


K1 positive and negative cell lines were incubated with the K1-derived peptides, and cell death (apoptotic and necrotic) was assessed by flow cytometry and LDH assay. Activation of caspases was assessed by fluorometric assay and flow cytometry. Fas receptor-independent, peptide-mediated cell killing was tested in the Fas-resistant Daudi cell line and Jurkat cell clones deficient in caspase-8 and FADD functionality. Activation of TNF receptors I and II was blocked by pre-incubation with corresponding blocking antibodies. The effect of the K1 peptide in vivo was tested in a mouse xenograft model.


We observed that the peptide S20-3 enhanced cell death in K1-positive BJAB cells and HHV-8 positive primary effusion lymphoma (PEL) cell lines. Similar effects of this peptide were observed in B-cell lymphoma and T-lymphoblastic leukemia cells without K1 expression but not in normal human peripheral blood mononuclear cells. A single intratumoral injection of the S20-3 peptide decreased the growth of Jurkat xenografts in SCID mice. The mechanism of tumor cell death induced by the S20-3 peptide was associated with activation of caspases, but this activity was only partially inhibited by the pan-caspase inhibitor z-VAD. Furthermore, the K1 peptide also killed Fas-resistant Daudi cells, and this killing effect was inhibited by pre-incubation of cells with antibodies blocking TNFRI.


Taken together, these findings indicate that the S20-3 peptide can selectively induce the death of malignant hematological cell lines by Fas- and/or TNFRI-dependent mechanisms, suggesting the K1-derived peptide or peptidomimetic may have promising therapeutic potential for the treatment of hematological cancers.