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BioMed Research International
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 565287, 5 pages
Research Article

Synergistic Effects of Secretory Phospholipase A2 from the Venom of Agkistrodon piscivorus piscivorus with Cancer Chemotherapeutic Agents

Department of Physiology and Developmental Biology, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT 84602, USA

Received 20 July 2012; Accepted 15 August 2012

Academic Editor: Luis A. Ponce Soto

Copyright © 2013 Jennifer Nelson et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Healthy cells typically resist hydrolysis catalyzed by snake venom secretory phospholipase A2. However, during various forms of programmed cell death, they become vulnerable to attack by the enzyme. This observation raises the question of whether the specificity of the enzyme for dying cells could be used as a strategy to eliminate tumor cells that have been intoxicated but not directly killed by chemotherapeutic agents. This idea was tested with S49 lymphoma cells and a broad range of antineoplastic drugs: methotrexate, daunorubicin, actinomycin D, and paclitaxel. In each case, a substantial population of treated cells was still alive yet vulnerable to attack by the enzyme. Induction of cell death by these agents also perturbed the biophysical properties of the membrane as detected by merocyanine 540 and trimethylammonium-diphenylhexatriene. These results suggest that exposure of lymphoma cells to these drugs universally causes changes to the cell membrane that render it susceptible to enzymatic attack. The data also argue that the snake venom enzyme is not only capable of clearing cell corpses but can aid in the demise of tumor cells that have initiated but not yet completed the death process.