Cytotoxic activity of an anti-transferrin receptor immunotoxin on normal and leukemic human hematopoietic progenitors

M. Cazzola, G. Bergamaschi, L. Dezza, R. D'Uva, L. Ponchio, V. Rosti, E. Ascari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The process of cellular iron uptake involves a specific receptor for the plasma carrier transferrin and a pathway of receptor-mediated endocytosis. Transferrin receptor expression is closely related to the rate of cell proliferation, and conjugates between anti-transferrin receptor monoclonal antibodies and toxins have been shown to have potent cytotoxic activity. We have constructed an anti-transferrin receptor immunotoxin by conjugating the anti-transferrin receptor monoclonal antibody B3/25 to a ribosome-inactivating protein, the saporin-6 (SO6), which is derived from the seeds of the plant Saponaria officinalis. The immunotoxin B3/25-SO6 was tested for in vitro cytotoxic activity against the human cell lines K-562 and HL-60 and against normal human bone marrow hematopoietic progenitors and acute myeloid leukemia clonogenic cells. The immunotoxin proved to be an effective inhibitor of K-562 and HL-60 clonogenic cell growth, in vitro colony formation being completely inhibited at immunotoxin concentrations ranging from 10 -7 to 10 -10 M.B3/25SO6 markedly reduced the recloning efficiency of HL-60 clonogenic cells at 10 -12 M. Exposure of HL-60 cells in suspension culture to 10 -9 M B3/25-SO6 for 48-72 h completely abolished their clonogenic potential. The immunotoxin was also found to be cytotoxic against normal human bone marrow progenitor cells (burst-forming unit-erythroid and colony-forming unit-granulocyte, macrophage) in a dose-dependent manner. However, exposure of normal colony-forming unit-granulocyte, macrophage in suspension culture to 10 -9 Mi B3/25-SO6 for 72 h resulted in only 50% suppression of their clonogenic potential. Finally, B3/25-SO6 was found to be a potent inhibitor of in vitro growth of acute myeloid leukemia clonogenic cells. The cytotoxic effects of B3/25-SO6 were shown to be specific, since both saporin alone and irrelevant immunotoxins did not have any effect in the cellular systems examined. We conclude that the immunotoxin B3/25-SO6 has dose-related cytotoxic effects on both normal and leukemic human hematopoietic progenitors. Since there are substantial differences between normal and leukemic progenitors with respect to the proportion of cycling cells and the expression of transferrin receptors, B3/25-SO6 or similar immunotoxins may have clinical application in bone marrow-purging procedures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)536-541
Number of pages6
JournalCancer Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology


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