Background: Radiotherapy can be used to treat all stages of cervical cancer. For improving local control via radiotherapy, it is important to use additional antitumor agents. Aminopeptidase N (APN)/CD13, a 150-kDa metalloproteinase, is a multifunctional cell surface aminopeptidase with ubiquitous expression. Recent studies have suggested that APN/CD13 plays an important role in tumor progression in several human malignancies. Methods: We investigated whether the suppression of APN/CD13 using Ubenimex, an inhibitor of APN/CD13 activity, may affect tumor radiosensitivity in cervical cancer cells both in vitro and in vivo. Cell surface APN/CD13 activity in HeLa cells was calculated using alanine-p-nitroanilido as a substrate. For colony formation assays, single-dose radiation and/or Ubenimex were administered to each dish of HeLa cells, and these dishes were cultured for 14 days. Molecular changes of apoptosis were determined by Western blot. Apoptosis was evaluated by Annexin-V PI staining (flow cytometry analysis) and the Tunel method. Moreover, we investigated the effect of combining Ubenimex and low-dose radiation on tumor growth using nude mice. Results: We demonstrated that Ubenimex enhanced the effectiveness of radiotherapy, acting as a radiosensitizer both in vitro and in vivo. In colony formation assays, a significant decline in clonogenic survival was observed in Ubenimex-treated cells. Mice treated with a combination of radiation and Ubenimex showed a significant prolongation of the tumor-doubling time compared with the control, Ubenimex, or radiation-alone groups. We also showed that ubenimex enhanced radiation-induced apoptosis in vitro and in vivo. Conclusion: Although further studies are needed, this report suggests that Ubeniemx acts as a radiosensitizer in cervical cancer treatment, and that the inhibition of APN/CD13 activity may represent a new approach for improving the therapeutic efficacy of radiotherapy for uterine cervical cancer.
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