Lentiviral delivery of HIV-1 Vpr protein induces apoptosis in transformed cells

Sheila A. Stewart, Betty Poon, Jeremy B.M. Jowett, Yiming Xie, Irvin S.Y. Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

116 Scopus citations


Most current anticancer therapies act by inducing tumor cell stasis followed by apoptosis. HIV-1 Vpr effectively induces apoptosis of T cells after arrest of cells at a G2/M checkpoint. Here, we investigated whether this property of Vpr could be exploited for use as a potential anticancer agent. As a potentially safer alternative to transfer of genes encoding Vpr, we developed a method to efficiently introduce Vpr protein directly into cells. Vpr packaged into HIV-1 virions lacking a genome induced efficient cell cycle arrest and apoptosis. Introduction of Vpr into tumor cell lines of various tissue origin, including those bearing predisposing mutations in p53, XPA, and hMLH1, induced cell cycle arrest and apoptosis with high efficiency. Significantly, apoptosis mediated by virion-associated Vpr was more effective on rapidly dividing cells compared with slow-growing cells, thus, in concept, providing a potential differential effect between some types of tumor cells and surrounding normal cells. This model system provides a rationale and proof of concept for the development of potential cancer therapeutic agents based on the growth-arresting and apoptotic properties of Vpr.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12039-12043
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number21
StatePublished - Oct 12 1999


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