Lunasin is a 44 amino acid peptide with multiple functional domains including an aspartic acid tail, an RGD domain, and a chromatin-binding helical domain. We recently showed that Lunasin induced a phenotype switch of cancer initiating cells (CIC) out of the stem compartment by inducing melanocyte-associated differentiation markers while simultaneously reducing stem-cell-associated transcription factors. In the present study, we advance the hypothesis that Lunasin can reduce pools of melanoma cells with stem cell-like properties, and demonstrate that Lunasin treatment effectively inhibits the invasive potential of CICs in vitro as well as in vivo in a mouse experimental metastasis model. Mice receiving Lunasin treatment had significantly reduced pulmonary colonization after injection of highly metastatic B16-F10 melanoma cells compared to mice in the control group. Mechanistic studies demonstrate that Lunasin reduced activating phosphorylations of the intracellular kinases FAK and AKT as well as reduced histone acetylation of lysine residues in H3 and H4 histones. Using peptides with mutated activity domains, we functionally demonstrated that the RGD domain is necessary for Lunasin uptake and its ability to inhibit oncosphere formation by CICs, thus confirming that Lunasin’s ability to affect CICs is at least in part due to the suppression of integrin signaling. Our studies suggest that Lunasin represents a unique anticancer agent that could be developed to help prevent metastasis and patient relapse by reducing the activity of CICs which are known to be resistant to current chemotherapies.

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Published in Oncotarget, v. 8, no. 15, p. 25525-25541.

Copyright: Shidal et al.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited

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This work was funded by Owensboro Grain Company, Owensboro, Kentucky, USA.

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