Survivin, also called Baculoviral IAP repeat-containing 5 (BIRC5), is a human gene that is part of the inhibitor of apoptosis family (IAP). The survivin protein functions to inhibit caspase activation therefore leading to negative regulation of apoptosis or programmed cell death. This has been shown by disruption of survivin induction pathways leading to increase in apoptosis and decrease in tumour growth. The survivin protein is expressed highly in most human tumours and fetal tissue, but is completely absent in terminally differentiated cells.Sah NK, Khan Z, Khan GJ, Bisen PS. (2006)Structural, functional and therapeutic biology of survivin."Cancer Lett." 244(2):164-71. [ PMID:16621243] ] This fact therefore makes survivin an ideal target for cancer therapy as cancer cells are targeted while normal cells are left alone. Survivin expression is also highly regulated by the cell cycle and is only expressed in the G2-M phase. It is known that survivin localizes to the mitotic spindle by interaction with tubulin during mitosis and may play a contributing role in regulating mitosis. The molecular mechanisms of survivin regulation are still not well understood to this day, but reguation of survivin seems to be linked to the p53 protein. [Olie RA, Simões-Wüst AP, Baumann B, Leech SH, Fabbro D, Stahel RA, Zangemeister-Wittke U.(2000) A novel antisense oligonucleotide targeting survivin expression induces apoptosis and sensetizes lung cancer cells to chemotherapy."Cancer Research" 60:2805-2809. [ PMID: 10850418] ]

IAP Family of Anti-apoptotic Proteins Background

The suppression of apoptosis is a major contributing factor to carcinogenesis. Allowing cells to bypass apoptosis and continue to live and proliferate, allows for the eventual accumulation of mutations that may render the cell unrepsonsive to mechanisms that normally regulate cell growth. Thus the anti-apoptotic function of survivin plays a significant role in the sustainability of cancer.

Survivin is a member of the IAP family of antiapoptotic proteins and is one of the more recent ones described. It is shown to be conserved in function across evolution as homologues of the protein found both in vertebrates and invertebrates.Ingo Tamm, Yan Wang, Ed Sausville, Dominic A. Scudiero, Nicole Vigna, Tilman Oltersdorf and John C. Reed.(1998) IAP-Family Protein Survivin Inhibits Caspase Activity and Apoptosis Induced by Fas (CD95), Bax, Caspases, and Anticancer Drugs."Cancer Research" 58, 5315-5320.] The first members of the IAPs identified were from the Baculovirus IAPs, Cp-IAP and Op-IAP, which bind to and inhibit caspases as a mechanism that contributes to its efficient infection and replication cycle in the host. Later, five more human IAPs were discovered which included XIAP, c-IAPl, C-IAP2, NAIP, and Survivin. Survivin, like the others, was discovered by its structural homology to IAP family of proteins in human B-cell lymphoma. The human IAPs, XIAP, c-IAPl, C-IAP2 have been shown to bind to caspase-3 and -7 which are the effector caspases in the signaling pathway of apoptosis. It is not known with absolute certainty though, how the IAPs inhibit apoptosis mechanistically at the molecular level.

A common feature that is present in all IAPs in the presence of a BIR (~70 amino acid motif) in one to three copies. It was shown by Tamm "et al." that knocking out BIR2 from XIAP was enough to cause a loss of function in terms of XIAPs ability to inhibit caspases. This gives the implication that it is within these BIR motifs that contains the anti-apoptotic function of these IAPs. Survivin's one BIR domain shows a similar sequence compared to that of XIAP's BIR domains.


The single survivin gene can give rise to four different alternatively spliced transcripts.Hugo Caldas, Yuying Jiang, Michael P Holloway, Jason Fangusaro1, Csaba Mahotka, Edward M Conway and Rachel A Altura1.(2005) Survivin splice variants regulate the balance between proliferation and cell death."Oncogene" 24, 1994–2007. [] ]

1. Survivin which has a three-intron–four-exon structure in both the mouse and human.

2. Survivin-2B which has an insertion of an alternative exon 2.

3. Survivin-Delta-Ex-3 which has exon 3 removed. The removal of exon 3 results in a frame shift that generates a unique carboxyl terminus with a new function. This new function may involve a nuclear localization signal. Moreover, a mitochondrial localization signal is also generated.

4. Survivin-3B which has an insertion of an alternative exon 3.

Protein Structure

A structural feature common to all IAP family proteins is that they all contain at least one baculoviral IAP repeat (BIR) domain characterized by a conserved zinc-coordinating Cys/His motif at the N-terminal half of the protein. Yigong Shi.(2000)Survivin structure:crystal unclear."Nature Structural Biology" 7, 620 - 623. [] ] Survivin is distinguished from other IAP family members in that it has only one BIR domain. The mice and human BIR domain of survivin are very similar structurally except for two differences which may affect function variability. The human survivin also contains an elongated C-terminal helix comprising 42 amino acids. Survivin is 16.5 kDa large and is the smallest member of the IAP family.

The Bow Tie Model

X-ray crystallography has shown two molecules of human survivin coming together to form a bow-tie shaped dimer through a hydrophobic interface. This interface includes N-terminal residues 6-10 just before the BIR domain region and the 10 residue region connecting the BIR domain to the C-terminal helix. The structural integrity of the determined crystal structure of survivin is quite relaible as physiological conditions were used to obtain the images.


1. Signaling Pathway

Apoptosis, the process of programmed cell death involves complex signaling pathways and cascades of molecular events. This process is needed for proper development during embryonic and fetal growth where there is destruction and reconstruction of cellular structures. In adult organisms, apoptosis is needed to maintain differntiated tissue by striking the balance between proliferation and cell death. It is known that intracellular proteases called caspases degrade the cellular contents of the cell by proteolysis upon activation of the death pathway.

Mamillian cells have two main pathways which lead to apoptosis.

1. Extrinsic Pathway:Initiated by extrinsic ligands binding to death receptors on the surface of the cell. An example of this is tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) binding to TNF-alpha receptor. An example of a TNF receptor is Fas (CD95) which recruits activator caspases like caspase-8 upon binding TNF at the cell surface. The activation of the initiator caspases then initiates a downstream cascade of events that results in the induction of effector caspases that function in apoptosis. Altieri, D.C. (2003) Validating survivin as a cancer therapeutic target. Nature Reviews Cancer 3: 46-54]

2. Intrinsic Pathway: This pathway is initiated by intraceullar or environmental stimuli. It is focused on detecting the improper functioning of the mitochondria in the cell and as a result activates signaling pathways to commit suicide. The membrane permeability of the mitochondria increases and particular proteins are released into the cytoplasm that facilitates the activation of initiator caspases. The particular protein released from the mitochondria is cytochrome "c". Cytochrome "c" then binds to Apaf-1 in the cytosol and results in the activation of initiator caspase-9. The activation of the initiator caspases then initiates a downstream cascade of events that results in the induction of effector caspases that function in apoptosis.

One family of proteins called IAPs plays a role in regulating cell death by inhibiting the process. IAPs like survivin, inhibit apoptosis by physically binding to and inihibiting proper caspase function. The function of IAPs is evolutionarily conserved as Drosophila homologues of IAPs have been shown to be essential for cell survivial.

IAPs have been implicated in studies to have a regulatory effect on cell division. Yeast cells with knock outs of certain IAP genes did not show problems associated with cell death, but showed defects in mitosis characterized by improper chromosome segregation or failed cytokenesis.

Deletion of particular IAPs does not seem to have a profound effect on the cell-death pathway as there is a redundancy of function by the many IAPs that exist in a cell. They have been implicated, however, to play a role in maintaining an anti-apoptotic environment intracellularly. Changing the expression of particular IAPs has shown an increase in spontaneous cell death induction or increased sensitivity to death stimuli.

2. Functional Properties of Survivin

It has been shown that survivin can heterodimerize individually with the two splice variants Survivin-2B and survivin-deltaEx3. Evidence of the heterodimerization of survivin splice variants with survivin was shown with coimmunoprecipitation experiments after cotransfection with the respective survivin variants with survivin. To determine the localization of exogenously expressed survivin-2B and survivin-deltaEx3, fusion constructs of the proteins were made with GFP and HcRed respectively and Daoy cells were transfected with the plasmid constructs. Survivin was also tagged with a fluorescent protein. The fusion of the survivin variants with the fluorescent molecules allows for simple detection of cellular location by fluorescence microscopy. Survivin-2B by itself, localized to both nuclear and cytoplasmic compartments whereas survivin-deltaEx3 localized only in the nucleus. The localization of the three variants (survivin, Survivin-2B, and survivin-deltaEx3) differ, however, when cotransfected together rather than individually.

To see which subcellular compartments contained the survivin splice variants complexes, fluorescent antibody markers for different organelles in the cell were employed. The assumption is that, under fluorescence microscopy, if the particular survivin complex is located in that particular cell compartment, one would observe an overlap from the fluorescence given off by the tagged survivin complex and the tagged compartment as well. Different colour fluorescence is used to distinguish compartment from survivin.

::Endoplasmic Reticulum and Lyosomes: no colocalization

::Mitochondria and Golgi: both survivin/survivin-2B and survivin/survivin-deltaEx3 colocalize

To verify these observations, they fractionated the subcellular compartments and performed western blot analysis to definitively say that survivin complexes did indeed localize at these compartments.

3. Functional Significance in Cancer

urvivin expression in different carcinomas

Survivin is known to be expressed across most tumour cell types and is at the same time absent in normal non-malignant cells. Tamm "et al." showed the relative levels of survivin protein among 60 different human tumour lines used for NCI's anticancer drug screening program. The respective cancer cells were lysed in the presence of proteinase inhibitors and the lysate was electrophoresed on an SDS protein-separation gel. Equal amounts of lysate were added to each lane to ensure normalization of total protein loaded for each cancer cell line. A western blot was performed and survivin protein level was detected with the use of a monoclonal antibody specific for survivin. The X-ray film was quantified by scanning densitometry using the IS-1000 imaging system. The table to the right shows that in a relative perspective, survivin protein is most highly expressed in lung and breast cancer cell lines and least expressed in renal cancers. Knowing the relative expression levels of survivin in different tumour types may prove helpful as survivin-related therapy may be administered depending on the expression level and reliance of the tumour type on survivin in terms of its sustainability as a tumour. This is because survivin is known to be a major factor in contributing to the resistance of cancer cells to apoptose.

Oncogene: Survivin in Cancer

Survivin can be regarded as an oncogene as it is aberrant overexpression in most cancer cells contributes to the phenotype of the cancer cells being more resistant to apoptotic stimuli and chemotherapeutic therapies and thus allowing for continued proliferation and survival.

Genomic Instability and Survivin

Most human cancers have been found to have gains and losses of chromosomes which may be due to chromosomal instability (CIN). One of the things that causes CIN is the inactivation of genes that control the proper segregation of the sister chromatids during mitosis. In gaining a better understanding of survivin's function in mitotic regulation, scientists have looked into the area of genomic instability. It is known that survivin associates with microtubules of the mitotic spindle at the start of mitosis. Maria Castedo, Jean-Luc Perfettini, Thomas Roumier, Karine Andreau, Rene Medema and Guido Kroemer. "Oncogene" 23, 2825–2837] It has been shown in the literature that knocking out survivin in cancer cells will disrupt microtubule formation and result in polyploidy as well as massive apoptosis. It has also been shown that survivin depleted cells exit mitosis without achieving proper chromosome alignment and then reforms single tetraploid nuclei. Further evidence also suggests that survivin is needed for sustaining mitotic arrest upon encounter with mitosis problems. The evidence mentioned above implicates that survivin plays an important regulatory role both in the progression of mitosis and sustaining mitotic arrest. This seems strange as survivin is known to be highly upregulated in most cancer cells (that usually contain chromosome instability characteristics), and its function is that which promotes proper regulation of mitosis.

Regulation of Survivin Activity

A. p53 Regulation

1. p53 inhibits survivin expression at the transcriptional level

Wild-type p53 has been shown to repress survivin expression at the mRNA level.Asra Mirza, Marnie McGuirk, Tish N Hockenberry, Qun Wu, Hena Ashar, Stuart Black, Shu Fen Wen, Luquan Wang, Paul Kirschmeier, W Robert Bishop, Loretta L Nielsen, Cecil B Pickett and Suxing Liu. (2002).Human survivin is negatively regulated by wild-type p53 and participates in p53-dependent apoptotic pathway. "Oncogene" 21, 17:2613-2622] Using an adenovirus vector for wild-type p53, human ovarion cancer cell line 2774qw1 (which expresses mutant p53) was transfected. mRNA levels of survivin were analyzed by real-time quantitative PCR (RT-PCR) and showed time-dependent downregulation of survivin mRNA levels when the cells were infected with wild-type p53. A 3.6 fold decrease of survivin mRNA level was observed 16 hours after infection initiation and decreased 6.7 fold 24 hours after infection. Western blot results do show that there is indeed the p53 from the adenoviral vector was being expressed in the cells using antibody specific for p53. The expression of p53 levels inidicative of its role in survivin repression shows that p53 started to be expressed 6 hours into infection and had its highest level at 16-24 hours. To further confirm that endogenous wild-type p53 is really causing the repression of survivin gene expression, the authors induced A549 (human lung cancer cell line with wild-type p53) and T47D (human breast cancer cell line with mutant p53) cells with DNA damaging agent adriamycin to trigger the physiological p53 apoptotic response in these cancer cells and comapare the survivin levels measured to the same cells without DNA damage induction. The T47D line which intrinsically has functioning wild-type p53 showed significant reduction in survivin levels compared to non-induced cells. This same effect was not seen in A549 cells which carry mutant inactive p53.

p53's normal function is to regulate genes that control apoptosis. As survivin is a known inhibitor of apoptosis, it can be implied that p53 repression of survivin is one mechanism in which cells can undergo apoptosis upon induction by apoptotic stimuli or signals. When survivin is over-expressed in the cell lines mentioned in the previous paragraph, apoptotic response from DNA damaging agent adriamycin decreased in a dose-dependent manner. This suggests that down-regulation of survivin by p53 is important for p53-mediated apoptotic pathway to successfully result in apoptosis. It is known that a defining characteristic of most tumours is the overexpression of survivin and the complete loss of wild-type p53. The evidence put forth by Mirza et al. show that there exists a link between survivin and p53 that can possibly explain a critical event that contributes to cancer progression.

2. Wild-type p53 is Associated with Suppression of Survivin Promoter

In order to see if p53 re-expression in cancer cells (that have lost p53 expression) has the suppressive effect on the promoter of the survivin gene, a luciferase reporter construct was made. The isolated survivin promoter was placed upstream of the luciferase reporter gene. In a luciferase reporter assay, if the promoter is active, the luciferase gene is transcribed and translated into a product that gives off light that can measured quantitatively and thus represents the activity of the promoter. This construct was transfected into cancer cells that had either wild-type or mutant p53. High luciferase activity was measured in the cells with mutant p53 and significantly lower luciferase levels were measured for cells with wild-type p53.

Transfection of different cell types with wild-type p53 was associated with a strong repression of the survivin promoter. Transfection with mutant p53 was not shown to strongly repress the survivin promoter. More luciferase constructs were prepared with varying degrees of deletion from the 5' end of the survivin promoter region. At one point, there was deletion that caused the survivin levels to be indifferent to the presence of the p53 overexpression plasmid indicating there is a specific region proximal to the transcription start site that is needed for p53 suppression of survivin. Although it has found that two p53 binding sites are located on the survivin gene promoter, analysis using deletions and mutations has shown that these sites are not essential to trancriptional inactivation.

Instead, it is observed that modification of the chromatin inside of the promoter region may be responsible for the transcriptional repression of the survivin gene. This is explained below in the epigenetic regulation section.B. Cell Cycle Regulation

Survivin is shown to be clearly regulated by the cell cycle as its expression is found to be dominant only in the G2/M phase. This regulation exists at the transcriptional level as there is evidence of the presence of cell-cycle-dependent element/cell-cycle gene homology region (CDE/CHR)boxes located in the survivin promoter region. Further evidence to support this mechanism of regulation includes the evidence that surivin is poly-ubiquinated and degraded by proteasomes during interphase of the cell cycle. Moreover, survivin has been shown to localize to components of the mitotic spindle during metaphase and anaphase of mitosis. Physical association between polymerized tubulin and survivin have been shown "in vitro" as well. It is also shown that post-transcriptional modification of survivin involving the phosphorylation of Thr34 leads to increased protein stability in the G2/M phase of the cell cycle.

It is known from Mirza "et al." that repression of survivin by p53 is not the a result of any cell cycle progressive regulation. The same experiment by Mirza" et al." with regard to determining p53 suppression of survivin at the transcriptional level was repeated but this time for cells arrested in different stages of the cell cycle. It was shown that although p53 arrests the numbers of cells to different extents in different phases, the measured level of survivin mRNA and protein levels were the same across all the samples transfected with the wild-type p53. This shows that p53 acts in a cell-cycle independent manner to inhibit survivin expression.

C. Epigenetic and Genetic Regulation

As observed through the literature, survivin is found to be over-expressed across many tumour types. Scientists are not sure of the mechanism which causes this abnormal over-expression of survivin; however, p53 is downregulated in almost all cancers so it is tempting to suggest survivin over-expression is due to p53 inactivity. Wagner "et al." investigated the possible molecular mechanism involved with the overexpression of survivin in acute myeloid leukemia (AML). In their experiments, they did both an epigenetic and genetic analysis of the survivin gene promoter region in AML patients and compared the observations to what was seen in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) that have been shown to express no survivin. Assuming that the molecular mechanism of survivin re-expression in cancerous cells is at the transcriptional level, the authors decided to look at particular parts of the promoter region of survivin in order to see what happens in cancer cells that does not happen in normal cells that causes such a high level of survivin to be expressed. With regards to an epigenetic mechanism of survivin gene regulation, the authors measured the methylation status of the survivin promoter since it is accepted that methylation of genes plays an important role in carcinogenesis by silencing of certain genes or vice versa. The authors used methylation specific polymerase chain reaction (link out Wiki) with bisulfite sequencing (link out Wiki) methods to measure the promoter methylation status in AML and PBMCs and found unmethylated survivin promoters in both groups. Wagner M, Schmelz K, Dörken B, Tamm I. (2008). Epigenetic and genetic analysis of the survivin promoter in acute myeloid leukemia. "Leuk Res.Epub ahead of print] This result shows that methylation status is not an important regulator of survivin re-expression during leukemogenesis. With regards to genetic analysis of the survivin promoter region, the isolated DNA of AML and PBMCs were treated with bisulfite and the survivin promoter region sequence was amplified out with PCR and sequenced to look for any particular genetic changes in the DNA sequence between the two groups. Three single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were identified and were all present both in AML patients and healthy donors. This result suggests that the occurrence of these SNPs in the promoter region of the survivin gene also appears to be of no importance to survivin expression. However, it has not been ruled out yet that there may be other possible epigenetic mechanisms that may be responsible for a high level of survivin expression observed in cancer cells and not in normal cells. For example, the acetylation profile of the survivin promoter region can also be looked at. Different cancer and tissue types may have slight or significant differences in the way survivin expression is regulated in the cell and thus the methylation status or genetic differences in the survivin promoter may be observed to be different in different tissues. Thus, further experiments assessing the epigenetic and genetic profile of different tumour types must be investigated.

urvivin Drug Development and Therapy

Cancer Therapies Exploiting Survivin

Anti-androgen Therapy using Flutamide to treat Androgen-dependent Prostate Cancer

Small interfering RNA (siRNAs) are synthetic antisense oligonucleotides to the mRNA of the gene of interest that works to silence the expression of a particular gene by its complementary binding. siRNAs bound to the respective mRNA results in disruption of translation of that particular gene and thus the absence of that protein in the cell. Thus, the use of siRNAs has great potential to be a human therapeutic as it can target and silence the expression of potentially any protein you want. A problem arises when siRNA expression in a cell cannot be controlled allowing its constitutive expression to cause toxic side effects. With regards to practical treatment of cancer, it is required to either deliver the siRNAs specifically into cancer cells or control the siRNA expression. Previous methods of siRNA therapy employ the use of siRNA sequences cloned into vectors under the control of constitutively active promoters. This causes a problem as this model is non-specific to cancer cells and damages normal cells too. Knowing that survivin is over-expressed specifically in cancer cells and absent in normal cells, one can imply that the survivin promoter is only active in cancer cells. Thus, the exploitation of this difference between cancer cells and normal cells will allow appropriate therapy directed only at the cells in a patient that are harmful. In an experiment to demonstrate this idea, Trang et al. have created a cancer-specific vector expressing siRNA for green fluorescent protein (GFP) under the human survivin promoter. MCF7 breast cancer cells were cotransfected with this vector and a GFP-expressing vector as well. Their major finding was that MCF7 cells transfected with the siRNA vector for GFP under the survivin promoter had a significant reduction in GFP expression then the cells transfected with the siRNA vector under a cancer non-specific promoter. Moreover, normal non-cancerous cells transfected in the same way mentioned above showed no significant reduction in GFP expression. This is implying that in normal cells, survivin promoter is not active and thus the siRNA will not be expressed under an inactive survivin promoter.

Cancer Drug Discovery

Resveratrol and Survivin

It has been shown by Fulda et al. that the naturally occurring compound resveratrol (a polyphenol found in grapes and red wine) can be used as a sensitizer for anticancer drug-induced apoptosis by the action of causing cell cycle arrest. Fulda S, Debatin KM. (2004).Sensitization for anticancer drug-induced apoptosis by the chemopreventive agent resveratrol."Oncogene" 23(40):6702-11.] This cell cycle arrest causes a dramatic decline in survivin levels in the cells as it is known from the literature that survivin expression is highly linked with the cell cycle phase state. Thus the decrease in survivin, which is a contributing factor to chemotherapy resistance and apoptosis induction therapies, would render the cancer cells more prone to such cancer treatments. Fulda et al. have demonstrated the benefits of resveratrol through a series of experiments. First, the authors of the paper tested the intrinsic cytotoxic effects of resveratrol. They found that it only induced moderate apoptosis levels in SHEP nueroblastoma cells. After, they tested resveratrol in combination with several different known anticancer agents. They found a consistent increase in the level of apoptosis induced by the drugs when resveratrol was also present. Moreover, they varied the order with which either the drugs or resveratrol were introduced to the cancer cells to determine if the sequence of treatment had any important effect. It was found that the highest levels of apoptosis induction were observed when resveratrol was added prior to anticancer drug treatment. Next, the authors tested for any differential sensitivity to apoptosis linked to the phase of the cell cycle the cells were in. Analysis by flow cytometry revealed an accumulation of cells in S phase upon treatment with resveratrol. The cells were also halted in different phases of the cell cycle using special compounds and then treated with the anticancer drugs. They found that cells halted in S phase were significantly more sensitive to the cytotoxic effects of the drugs.

To determine the involvement of survivin in resveratrol-mediated sensitization, the authors decided to test whether downregulation of the specific survivin protein expression would confer a similar effect on the phenotype of resveratrol-treated cells. In terms of seeing at which level resveratrol worked, they did a northern blot and found that resveratrol treatment resulted in a decrease in survivin mRNA levels, thus implying resveratrol’s inhibitory action at the transcriptional level. To further see whether survivin played a key role in sensitization of the cancer cells to cytotoxic drugs, survivin antisense oligonucleotides were used to knock down any survivin mRNA and thus its possibility to be translated is also eliminated. siRNAs for survivin are basically complements in sequence to the mRNA sequence encoding survivin. When these siRNAs for survivin are introduced into cells, they will bind to the respective complementary mRNA and thus prevent its translation since the mRNA is now impeded from proper physical interaction with the translational machinery. In this way, the siRNAs for survivin effectively downregulates survivin expression level in the cell. Cells treated with antisense oligonucleotides for survivin showed similar sensitization to cytotoxic drugs as cells treated with resveratrol which offers support for the mechanism of action of resveratrol.

Cancer Immunotherapy

Survivin has been a target of attention in recent years for cancer immunotherapy as it is an antigen that is expressed mostly in cancer cells and absent in normal cells. This is because survivin is deemed to be a crucial player in tumour survival. There has been lots of evidence accumulated over the years that show survivin as a strong T-cell activating antigen and clinical trials have already been initiated to prove its usefulness in the clinic. Birte Friedrichs; Sandra Siegel; Mads Hald Andersen; Norbert Schmitz; Matthias Zeis. (2006). Survivin-derived peptide epitopes and their role for induction of antitumor immunity in hematological malignancies. "Leukemia and Lymphoma" 47(6):978-985]

Survivin can elicit complete activation of the adaptive immune system:

A. Cellular T Cell Response

The first evidence of survivin-specific CTL recognition and killing was shown in an assay where cytotoxic T cells (CTLs) induced lysis of B cells transfected to present survivin peptides on its surface. The naive CD8+ T cells were primed with dendritic cells and could therefore recognize the specific peptides of survivin presented on the surface Major Histocompatibility Complex I (MHC I) molecules of the B cells.

B. Humoral Antibody Response

Taking blood samples from cancer patients, scientists have found antibodies that are specific for survivin. These antibodies were absent in the blood samples of healthy normal patients. Therefore, this shows that survivin is able to elicit a full humoral immune response. This may prove useful as one could measure the level of survivin specific antibodies in the patient's blood as a monitor of tumour progression. In acquiring the humoral response to tumour antigens such as survivin, CD4+ T cells are activated to induce B cells to produce antibodies directed against the particular antigens.

The isolation of the antibodies specific for survivin peptides is useful as one can look at the structure and sequence of the epitope binding groove of the antibody and therefore deduce possible epitopes that may fit in that particular antibody groove. Therefore, one can determine the particular peptide portion of the survivin protein which is bound most efficiently and most commonly by humoral antibodies generated against survivin. This will lead to the production of more specific survivin vaccines that contain a specific portion of the survivin protein that is known to elicit a good immune response, generate immune memory and allow for protection from tumour development.

Xiang et al. found a new approach in inhibiting tumour growth and metastasis by simultaneously attacking both the tumour and its vasculature by a cytotoxic T cell (CTL) response against the survivin protein which will later result in the activation of apoptosis in tumour cells. Xiang R, Mizutani N, Luo Y, Chiodoni C, Zhou H, Mizutani M, Ba Y, Becker JC, Reisfeld RA. (2005). A DNA vaccine targeting survivin combines apoptosis with suppression of angiogenesis in lung tumor eradication."Cancer Research" 65(2):553-61.] The idea and general principle behind his technique is described below. Mice were basically immunized with the oral vaccination and then subjected to tumour challenges by injecting them in the chest with a certain number of tumour cells and a Matrigel pre-formed extracellular matrix to hold the tumour cells together. The mice were sacrificed and the endothelium tissue was stained with a fluorescent dye that would aid in the quantification of tumour neovascularisation using a Matrigel assay. There was found to be a significant difference between the control and test groups where mice given the vaccine had less angiogenesis from the tumour challenge than the control mice that were not given any of the vaccine prior to tumour challenge. In vitro assays and other tests were also performed to validate the idea of an actual immune response happening that is supportive of what they observed in the mice. For example, the spleen on the challenged mice were isolated and measured for the presence of any cytokines and specifically activated immune cell groups that would indicative that a specific immune response did occur upon vaccination. The isolated CTLs specific for the survivin protein after vaccination of the mice were used in cytoxicity assays where mice tumour cells expressing survivin were shown to be killed upon incubation with the specific CTLs.

By using an oral DNA vaccine carried in an attenuated non-virulent form of Salmonella typhimurium which co-encoded secretory chemokine CCL21 and survivin protein in C57BL/6J mice, Xiang "et al." have been able to elicit an immune response carried out by dendritic cells (DCs) and CTLs to eliminate and suppress the pulmonary metastases of non-small cell lung carcinoma. The activation of the immune response is most likely taking place in the secondary lymphoid organ called the Peyer’s Patch in the small intestine where DCs take up the survivin protein by phagocytosis and present them on their surface receptors to naive CD8+ T cells (uninactivated CTL) to achieve a specific immune response targeting survivin exclusively. Activated CTLs specific for a particular antigen kill their target cells by first recognizing parts of the survivin protein expressed on MHC I (immunohistocompatability) proteins presented on the surface of tumour cells and vasculature and then releasing granules that induce the tumour cells to undergo apoptosis. The DNA vaccine contained the CCL21 secretory chemokine as a way to enhance the likelihood of an immune response being elicited by better mediating the physical interaction of the antigen-presenting DCs and the naive CD8+ T cells which results in a greater likelihood of immune activation.


Further reading

*Ambrosini, G., Adida, C., Altieri, D.C. (1997) A novel anti-apoptosis gene, survivin, expressed in cancer and lymphoma. [ Abstract]
*Colnaghi, R., Connell, C.M., Barrett, R.M.A., Wheatley, S.P. (2006) Separating the Anti-apoptotic and Mitotic Roles of Survivin. [ Abstract] PBB_Further_reading
citations =
*cite journal | author=O'Driscoll L, Linehan R, Clynes M |title=Survivin: role in normal cells and in pathological conditions. |journal=Current cancer drug targets |volume=3 |issue= 2 |pages= 131–52 |year= 2003 |pmid= 12678716 |doi=
*cite journal | author=Chiou SK, Jones MK, Tarnawski AS |title=Survivin - an anti-apoptosis protein: its biological roles and implications for cancer and beyond. |journal=Med. Sci. Monit. |volume=9 |issue= 4 |pages= PI25–9 |year= 2003 |pmid= 12709681 |doi=
*cite journal | author=Ouhtit A, Matrougui K, Bengrine A, "et al." |title=Survivin is not only a death encounter but also a survival protein for invading tumor cells. |journal=Front. Biosci. |volume=12 |issue= |pages= 1260–70 |year= 2007 |pmid= 17127378 |doi=
*cite journal | author=Pennati M, Folini M, Zaffaroni N |title=Targeting survivin in cancer therapy: fulfilled promises and open questions. |journal=Carcinogenesis |volume=28 |issue= 6 |pages= 1133–9 |year= 2007 |pmid= 17341657 |doi= 10.1093/carcin/bgm047
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*cite journal | author=Wang TT, Qian XP, Liu BR |title=Survivin: potential role in diagnosis, prognosis and targeted therapy of gastric cancer. |journal=World J. Gastroenterol. |volume=13 |issue= 20 |pages= 2784–90 |year= 2007 |pmid= 17569112 |doi=
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*cite journal | author=Wolanin K, Piwocka K |title= [Role of survivin in mitosis] |journal=Postepy Biochem. |volume=53 |issue= 1 |pages= 10–8 |year= 2007 |pmid= 17718383 |doi=
*cite journal | author=Altieri DC |title=Splicing of effector cell protease receptor-1 mRNA is modulated by an unusual retained intron. |journal=Biochemistry |volume=33 |issue= 46 |pages= 13848–55 |year= 1994 |pmid= 7947793 |doi=
*cite journal | author=Altieri DC |title=Molecular cloning of effector cell protease receptor-1, a novel cell surface receptor for the protease factor Xa. |journal=J. Biol. Chem. |volume=269 |issue= 5 |pages= 3139–42 |year= 1994 |pmid= 8106347 |doi=
*cite journal | author=Maruyama K, Sugano S |title=Oligo-capping: a simple method to replace the cap structure of eukaryotic mRNAs with oligoribonucleotides. |journal=Gene |volume=138 |issue= 1-2 |pages= 171–4 |year= 1994 |pmid= 8125298 |doi=
*cite journal | author=Ambrosini G, Adida C, Altieri DC |title=A novel anti-apoptosis gene, survivin, expressed in cancer and lymphoma. |journal=Nat. Med. |volume=3 |issue= 8 |pages= 917–21 |year= 1997 |pmid= 9256286 |doi=
*cite journal | author=Suzuki Y, Yoshitomo-Nakagawa K, Maruyama K, "et al." |title=Construction and characterization of a full length-enriched and a 5'-end-enriched cDNA library. |journal=Gene |volume=200 |issue= 1-2 |pages= 149–56 |year= 1997 |pmid= 9373149 |doi=
*cite journal | author=Ambrosini G, Adida C, Sirugo G, Altieri DC |title=Induction of apoptosis and inhibition of cell proliferation by survivin gene targeting. |journal=J. Biol. Chem. |volume=273 |issue= 18 |pages= 11177–82 |year= 1998 |pmid= 9556606 |doi=
*cite journal | author=Tamm I, Wang Y, Sausville E, "et al." |title=IAP-family protein survivin inhibits caspase activity and apoptosis induced by Fas (CD95), Bax, caspases, and anticancer drugs. |journal=Cancer Res. |volume=58 |issue= 23 |pages= 5315–20 |year= 1998 |pmid= 9850056 |doi=
*cite journal | author=Li F, Ambrosini G, Chu EY, "et al." |title=Control of apoptosis and mitotic spindle checkpoint by survivin. |journal=Nature |volume=396 |issue= 6711 |pages= 580–4 |year= 1999 |pmid= 9859993 |doi= 10.1038/25141
*cite journal | author=Mahotka C, Wenzel M, Springer E, "et al." |title=Survivin-deltaEx3 and survivin-2B: two novel splice variants of the apoptosis inhibitor survivin with different antiapoptotic properties. |journal=Cancer Res. |volume=59 |issue= 24 |pages= 6097–102 |year= 2000 |pmid= 10626797 |doi=
*cite journal | author=Suzuki A, Ito T, Kawano H, "et al." |title=Survivin initiates procaspase 3/p21 complex formation as a result of interaction with Cdk4 to resist Fas-mediated cell death. |journal=Oncogene |volume=19 |issue= 10 |pages= 1346–53 |year= 2000 |pmid= 10713676 |doi= 10.1038/sj.onc.1203429
*cite journal | author=Verdecia MA, Huang H, Dutil E, "et al." |title=Structure of the human anti-apoptotic protein survivin reveals a dimeric arrangement. |journal=Nat. Struct. Biol. |volume=7 |issue= 7 |pages= 602–8 |year= 2000 |pmid= 10876248 |doi= 10.1038/76838

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  • Survivin — Survivin …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • survivin — Protein in tumour cells that blocks apoptosis, possibly by inhibiting caspases. Related to IAPs …   Dictionary of molecular biology

  • survivin — noun A protein that inhibits caspase activity …   Wiktionary

  • survivin — sur·vi·vin (sər viґvin) a protein that neutralizes caspase activity and thus inhibits apoptosis, expressed during the G2/M phase of the cell cycle in many tumors but not in most normal differentiated adult tissues …   Medical dictionary

  • API4 — Survivin, auch als BIRC5 oder API4 bezeichnet, ist ein Apoptose hemmendes Protein, welches im Wesentlichen von Krebszellen produziert wird. Das Tumor Antigen[1] wird auch „Überlebens Protein“ genannt. Daraus leitet sich auch der aus dem… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • BIRC5 — Survivin, auch als BIRC5 oder API4 bezeichnet, ist ein Apoptose hemmendes Protein, welches im Wesentlichen von Krebszellen produziert wird. Das Tumor Antigen[1] wird auch „Überlebens Protein“ genannt. Daraus leitet sich auch der aus dem… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Überlebens-Protein — Survivin, auch als BIRC5 oder API4 bezeichnet, ist ein Apoptose hemmendes Protein, welches im Wesentlichen von Krebszellen produziert wird. Das Tumor Antigen[1] wird auch „Überlebens Protein“ genannt. Daraus leitet sich auch der aus dem… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Überlebensprotein — Survivin, auch als BIRC5 oder API4 bezeichnet, ist ein Apoptose hemmendes Protein, welches im Wesentlichen von Krebszellen produziert wird. Das Tumor Antigen[1] wird auch „Überlebens Protein“ genannt. Daraus leitet sich auch der aus dem… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Apoptoseinhibitor — Apoptose Inhibitoren (engl. Inhibitor of apoptosis protein, IAP), sind eine Familie von Proteinen, die erstmals bei Baculoviren entdeckt wurden und als endogene Inhibitoren für die Apoptose (programmierter Zelltod) wirken. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Inhibitor of apoptosis — Apoptose Inhibitoren (engl. Inhibitor of apoptosis protein, IAP), sind eine Familie von Proteinen, die erstmals bei Baculoviren entdeckt wurden und als endogene Inhibitoren für die Apoptose (programmierter Zelltod) wirken. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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