Temozolomide (8-carbamoyl-3-methylimidazo[5,1d]-1,2,3,5-tetrazin-4-(3H)-one), an experimental antitumor agent which spontaneously decomposes to 5-(3,3-methyl-1-triazeno) imidazole-4-carboxamide, the active metabolite of the antineoplastic drug DTIC, causes erythroid differentiation of K562 leukemia cells. The increase in ε and γ globin gene expression after temozolomide treatment does not appear to be due to drug-induced hypomethylation of the genes. In other genes containing many methylated sequences such as the proto-oncogenes c-myc and C-Ha-ras, temozolomide caused no detectable change in methylation. In contrast, in the same genes 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine induced hypomethylation. Temozolomide caused DNA alkali-labile sites and an arrest of the cell cycle in G2 phase. Ethazolastone (its 3-ethylimidazo analogue) which does not cause differentiation of K562 produced no significant DNA damage and G2 phase blockade. DNA damage rather than hypomethylation may be responsible for induction of differentiation.
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