Azurin is a member of a family of metalloproteins called cupredoxins. Although previously thought to be involved in electron transfer, azurin has recently been shown to preferentially enter cancer cells than normal cells and induce apoptosis in such cells. Azurin also demonstrates structural similarity to a ligand known as ephrinB2, which binds its cognate receptor tyrosine kinase EphB2 to initiate cell signaling. Eph/ephrin signaling is known to be involved in cancer progression. We now demonstrate that azurin binds to the EphB2-Fc receptor with high affinity. We have localized a C-terminal domain of azurin (Azu 96-113) that exhibits structural similarity to ephrinB2 at the G-H loop region known to be involved in receptor binding. A synthetic peptide (Azu 96-113) as well as a GST fusion derivative GST-Azu 88-113 interferes with the growth of various human cancer cells. In a prostate cancer cell line DU145 lacking functional EphB2, azurin or its GST-fusion derivatives had little cytotoxic effect. However, in DU145 cells expressing functional EphB2, azurin and GST-Azu 88-113 demonstrated significant cytotoxicity, whereas ephrinB2 promoted cell growth. Azurin inhibited the ephrinB2-mediated autophosphorlyation of the EphB2 tyrosine residue, thus interfering in upstream cell signaling and contributing to cancer cell growth inhibition.
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