Inhibitory effects of IFN-γ and acyclovir on the glioblastoma cell cycle

Scott L. Kominsky, Prem S. Subramaniam, Howard M. Johnson, Barbara A. Torres

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Glioblastoma multiforme is one of the most aggressive and frequently occurring forms of brain cancer. It originates from astrocytes and is characterized by a loss of cell cycle control frequently involving mutations in tumor suppressor genes, such as p53 and p16. Nucleoside analogs, such as acyclovir (ACV), are currently being used in the treatment of vital diseases, such as those caused by members of the herpes family. Further, ACV in combination with type I interferons (IFN) has been shown to be more effective at lower doses in treatment of viral diseases. We show here that ACV at high concentrations (up to 500 μg/ml) inhibited growth in tissue culture of the human glioblastoma cell lines T98G, SNB-19, and U-373 by as much as 68.3% while inhibiting normal human astrocytes by only 38.3%. Related to this, tumor cells were more than sevenfold more efficient in phosphorylation of ACV to the active phosphate form than normal human astrocytes. Analogous to treatment of virus-infected cells, suboptimal concentrations of ACV were as effective as high concentrations when used in conjunction with low concentrations of IFN-γ in inhibition of tumor cell growth. At the cellular level, ACV and IFN-γ inhibited the cell cycle in both the G1 and S phases. The cooperative effect of ACV and IFN-γ against the glioblastomas appears to be due to direct inhibition of DNA synthesis by ACV in the S phase of the cell cycle and induction by IFN-γ of the tumor suppressor gene p21(WAF1/CIP1), which in turn acts at the level of proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) and cyclin E/cyclin-dependent kinase 2 (Cdk2) binding and inhibition of function. These studies show that the combination of IFN-γ and ACV at suboptimal concentrations elicits significant antiproliferative effects on the glioblastoma cell lines T98G, SNB-19, and U-373 while having very little effect on normal human astrocyte cell proliferation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)463-469
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Interferon and Cytokine Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Cell Biology
  • Virology


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