Increasing evidence suggests that signaling through the prolactin/prolactin receptor axis is important for stimulation the growth of many cancers including glioblastoma multiforme, breast and ovarian carcinoma. Efficient inhibitors of signaling have previously been developed but their applicability as cancer drugs is limited by the short in vivo half-life. In this study, we show that a fusion protein, consisting of the prolactin receptor antagonist PrlRA and an albumin binding domain for half-life extension can be expressed as inclusion bodies in Escherichia coli and efficiently refolded and purified to homogeneity. The fusion protein was found to have strong affinity for the two intended targets: the prolactin receptor (KD = 2.3±0.2 nM) and mouse serum albumin (KD = 0.38±0.01 nM). Further investigation showed that it could efficiently prevent prolactin mediated phosphorylation of STAT5 at 100 nM concentration and above, similar to the PrlRA itself, suggesting a potential as drug for cancer therapy in the future. Complexion with HSA weakened the affinity for the receptor to 21±3 nM, however the ability to prevent phosphorylation of STAT5 was still prominent. Injection into rats showed a 100-fold higher concentration in blood after 24 h compared to PrlRA itself.
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