Zfra is a 31-amino-acid zinc finger-like protein, which participates in the tumor necrosis factor signaling. Here, we determined that when nude mice and BALB/c mice were pre-injected with nanogram levels of a synthetic Zfra1-31 or truncated Zfra4-10 peptide via tail veins, these mice became resistant to the growth, metastasis and stemness of melanoma cells, and many malignant cancer cells. The synthetic peptides underwent self-polymerization in phosphate-buffered saline. Alteration of the Ser8 phosphorylation site to Gly8 abolished Zfra aggregation and its-mediated cancer suppression in vivo. Injected Zfra peptide autofluoresced due to polymerization and was trapped mainly in the spleen. Transfer of Zfra-stimulated spleen cells to naïve mice conferred resistance to cancer growth. Zfra-binding cells, designated Hyal-2+ CD3- CD19- Z cells, are approximately 25-30% in the normal spleen, but are significantly downregulated (near 0-3%) in tumor-growing mice. Zfra prevented the loss of Z cells caused by tumors. In vitro stimulation or education of naïve spleen cells with Zfra allowed generation of activated Z cells to confer a memory anticancer response in naïve or cancer-growing mice. In particular, Z cells are abundant in nude and NOD-SCID mice, and can be readily activated by Zfra to mount against cancer growth.
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