Intrinsic properties of tumour cells have a key impact on the bystander effect mediated by genetically engineered mesenchymal stromal cells


M. Matuskova, Laboratory of Molecular Oncology, Cancer Research Institute SAS, Vlarska 7, 833 91, Bratislava, Slovak Republic.




Engineered mesenchymal stromal cells (MSC) have been used in many preclinical studies of gene directed enzyme/prodrug therapy. We aimed to compare the efficacy of two most frequently used systems, as well as evaluate the extent of a bystander effect mediated by therapeutic MSC towards cell lines derived from different tumours.


Two approaches were compared: (i) herpes simplex virus thymidine kinase (TK)/ganciclovir (GCV) and (ii) yeast cytosine deaminase fused with uracil phosphoribosyltransferase (CD::UPRT)/5-fluorocytosine (5-FC). The cytotoxic effect mediated by therapeutic MSC was evaluated in direct co-culture by a fluorimetric assay. The expression profile of tumour cells was analyzed by a quantitative polymerase chain reaction, and the ability of gap-junctional intercellular communication (GJIC) was evaluated by a dye transfer assay.


Both systems were effective only on glioblastoma cells (8-MG-BA). The CD::UPRT-MSC/5-FC system showed efficiency on melanoma A375 cells. We decreased the sensitivity of 8-MG-BA cells and A375 cells to the CD::UPRT-MSC/5-FC system by pharmacological inhibition of thymidylate synthase, and we achieved a similar result in A375 cells by inhibition of thymidine phosphorylase. Although we demonstrated functional GJIC in A375 cells, TK-MSC were ineffective in mediating the bystander effect similarly to HeLa cells, which were also relatively resistant to CD::UPRT-MSC/5-FC treatment. TK-MSC/GCV treatment had a strong cytotoxic effect on MDA-MB-231 cells (breast carcinoma), whereas CD::UPRT-MSC/5-FC treatment failed as a result of overexpression of the gene for ABCC11. Transfection of the MDA-MB-231 cell line with small interference RNA specific to ABCC11 led to a significantly increased sensitivity to the CD::UPRT-MSC/5-FC approach.


GJIC, expression of enzymes involved in drug metabolism and ABC transporters correlate with the response of tumour cells to treatment by MSC-expressing prodrug-converting genes. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.