Llama-derived single variable domains (Nanobodies) directed against CXCR7 reduce head and neck cancer cell growth in vivo

D. Maussang, A. Mujic-Delic, F.J. Descamps, C. Stortelers, M. Stigter-van Walsum, H.F. Vischer, M. van Roy, M.J.W.D. Vosjan, M. Gonzalez-Pajuelo, G.A. van Dongen, P. Merchiers, P. van Rompaey, M.J. Smit

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

128 Citations (Scopus)


The chemokine receptor CXCR7, belonging to the membrane-bound G protein-coupled receptor superfamily, is expressed in several tumor types. Inhibition of CXCR7 with either small molecules or small interference (si)RNA has shown promising therapeutic benefits in several tumor models. With the increased interest and effectiveness of biologicals inhibiting membrane-bound receptors we made use of the "Nanobody platform" to target CXCR7. Previously we showed that Nanobodies, i.e. immunoglobulin single variable domains derived from naturally occurring heavy chain-only camelids antibodies, represent new biological tools to efficiently tackle difficult drug targets such as G protein-coupled receptors. In this study we developed and characterized highly selective and potent Nanobodies against CXCR7. Interestingly, the CXCR7-targeting Nanobodies displayed antagonistic properties in contrast with previously reported CXCR7-targeting agents. Several high affinity CXCR7-specific Nanobodies potently inhibited CXCL12-induced β-arrestin2 recruitment in vitro. A wide variety of tumor biopsies was profiled, showing for the first time high expression of CXCR7 in head and neck cancer. Using a patient-derived CXCR7-expressing head and neck cancer xenograft model in nude mice, tumor growth was inhibited by CXCR7-targeting Nanobody therapy. Mechanistically, CXCR7- targeting Nanobodies did not inhibit cell cycle progression but instead reduced secretion of the angiogenic chemokine CXCL1 from head and neck cancer cells in vitro, thus acting here as inverse agonists, and subsequent angiogenesis in vivo. Hence, with this novel class of CXCR7 inhibitors, we further substantiate the therapeutic relevance of targeting CXCR7 in head and neck cancer. © 2013 by The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Inc.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29562-29572
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number41
Publication statusPublished - 2013

Cite this