N-Terminal Modification of the Tetrapeptide Arg-Leu-Tyr-Glu, a Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Receptor-2 (VEGFR-2) Antagonist, Improves Antitumor Activity by Increasing its Stability against Serum Peptidases

Jung A. Yun, Joohwan Kim, Yi Yong Baek, Wonjin Park, Minsik Park, Suji Kim, Taesam Kim, Seunghwan Choi, Dooil Jeoung, Hansoo Lee, Moo Ho Won, Ji Yoon Kim, Kwon Soo Ha, Young Guen Kwon, Young Myeong Kim

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The tetrapeptide Arg-Leu-Tyr-Glu (RLYE), a vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) receptor-2 antagonist, has been used previously either alone or in combination with chemotherapeutic drugs for treating colorectal cancer in a mouse model. We analyzed the half-life of the peptide and found that because of degradation by aminopeptidases B and N, it had a short half-life of 1.2 hours in the serum. Therefore, to increase the stability and potency of the peptide, we designed the modified peptide, N-terminally acetylated RLYE (Ac-RLYE), which had a strongly stabilized half-life of 8.8 hours in serum compared with the original parent peptide. The IC50 value of Ac-RLYE for VEGF-A-induced endothelial cell migration decreased to approximately 37.1 pM from 89.1 pM for the parent peptide. Using a mouse xenograft tumor model, we demonstrated that Ac-RLYE was more potent than RLYE in inhibiting tumor angiogenesis and growth, improving vascular integrity and normalization through enhanced endothelial cell junctions and pericyte coverage of the tumor vasculature, and impeding the infiltration of macrophages into tumor and their polarization to the M2 phenotype. Furthermore, combined treatment of Ac-RLYE and irinotecan exhibited synergistic effects on M1-like macrophage activation and apoptosis and growth inhibition of tumor cells. These findings provide evidence that the N-terminal acetylation augments the therapeutic effect of RLYE in solid tumors via inhibition of tumor angiogenesis, improvement of tumor vessel integrity and normalization, and enhancement of the livery and efficacy of the coadministered chemotherapeutic drugs. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT: The results of this study demonstrate that the N-terminal acetylation of the tetrapeptide RLYE (Ac-RLYE), a novel vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-2 (VEGFR-2) inhibitor, significantly improves its serum stability, antiangiogenic activity, and vascular normalizing potency, resulting in enhanced therapeutic effect on solid tumors. Furthermore, the combined treatment of Ac-RLYE with the chemotherapeutic drug, irinotecan, synergistically enhanced its antitumor efficacy by improving the perfusion and delivery of the drug into the tumors and stimulating the conversion of the tumor-associated macrophages to an immunostimulatory M1-like antitumor phenotype.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)692-701
Number of pages10
JournalMolecular pharmacology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Dec 1


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology

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