Coronaviruses are positive-strand RNA viruses with features attractive for oncolytic therapy. To investigate this potential, we redirected the coronavirus murine hepatitis virus (MHV), which is normally unable to infect human cells, to human tumor cells by using a soluble receptor (soR)-based expression construct fused to an epidermal growth factor (EGF) receptor targeting moiety. Addition of this adapter protein to MHV allowed infection of otherwise nonsusceptible, EGF receptor (EGFR)-expressing cell cultures. We introduced the sequence encoding the adaptor protein soR-EGF into the MHV genome to generate a self-targeted virus capable of multiround infection. The resulting recombinant MHV was viable and had indeed acquired the ability to infect all glioblastoma cell lines tested in vitro. Infection of malignant human glioblastoma U87ΔEGFR cells gave rise to release of progeny virus and efficient cell killing in vitro. To investigate the oncolytic capacity of the virus in vivo, we used an orthotopic U87ΔEGFR xenograft mouse model. Treatment of mice bearing a lethal intracranial U87ΔEGFR tumor by injection with MHVsoR-EGF significantly prolonged survival compared to phosphate-buffered saline-treated (P = 0.001) and control virus-treated (P = 0.004) animals, and no recurrent tumor load was observed. However, some adverse effects were seen in normal mouse brain tissues that were likely caused by the natural murine tropism of MHV. This is the first demonstration of oncolytic activity of a coronavirus in vivo. It suggests that nonhuman coronaviruses may be attractive new therapeutic agents against human tumors.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science