N-(2-chloroethyl)-N-nitrosourea tethered to lexitropsin induces minor groove lesions at the p53 cDNA that are more cytotoxic than mutagenic

Alberto Inga, Fa Xian Chen, Paola Monti, Anna Aprile, Paola Campomenosi, Paola Menichini, Laura Ottaggio, Silvia Viaggi, Angelo Abbondandolo, Barry Gold, Gilberto Fronza

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Many different N-chloroethyl-N-nitrosourea (CENU) derivatives have been synthesized in an attempt to minimize carcinogenic activity while favoring antineoplastic activity. CENU derivatives linked to the dipeptide lexitropsin (lex) showed significant changes in groove- and sequence-selective DNA alkylation inducing thermolabile N3-alkyladenines (N3-Alkyl-As) at lex equilibrium binding sites. CENU-lex sequence specificity for DNA alkylation was determined using 32P-end-labeled restriction fragments of the p53 cDNA. The adducted sites were converted into single-strand breaks by sequential heating at neutral pH and exposure to piperidine. To establish the mutagenic and lethal properties of CENU-lex-specific lesions, a yeast expression vector harboring a human wild-type p53 cDNA was treated in vitro with CENU-lex and transfected into a yeast strain containing the ADE2 gene regulated by a p53- responsive promoter. p53 mutants were isolated from independent ade- transformants. The results revealed that: (a) CENU-lex preferentially induces N3-Alkyl-A at specific lex equilibrium binding sites, the formations of which are strongly inhibited by distamycin; (b) reactivity toward Gs is still present, albeit to a lesser extent when compared to N-(2-chloroethyi)-N- cyclohexyl-N-nitrosou tea and to CENU; (c) 91% of the 49 CENU-lex p53 mutations (45 of 49) were bp substitutions, 29 of which were GC→AT transitions, mainly at 5' purine G sites; (d) all AT-targeted mutations but one were AT→TA transversions; (e) the distribution of the CENU-lex mutations along the p53 cDNA was not random, with position 273 (codon 91), where only GC→AT transitions were observed, being a real (n = 3, P <0.0002) CENU-lex mutation hot spot; and (f) a shift in DNA alkylation sites between lesion spectra induced by CENU-lex and N-(2-chloroethyl-N-cyclohexyl-N-nitrosourea was associated with an increased lethality and a decreased mutagenicity, whereas no dramatic change in mutational specificity was observed. Hence, it is tempting to conclude that, in this experimental system, N3-Alkyl-A is more lethal than mutagenic, whereas O6-alkylguanine is a common premutational lesion formed at non-lex binding sites. These results suggest that CENU derivatives with virtually absolute specificity for A residues would make targeting of lethal, nonmutagenic lesions at A+T-rich regions possible, and this may represent a new strategy for the development of new chemotherapeutic agents with a higher therapeutic index.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)689-695
Number of pages7
JournalCancer Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology


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