Combination of 5-fluorouracil and N1,N11-diethylnorspermine markedly activates spermidine/spermine N1-acetyltransferase expression, depletes polyamines, and synergistically induces apoptosis in colon carcinoma cells

Choi, W.; Gerner, E.W.; Ramdas, L.; Dupart, J.; Carew, J.; Proctor, L.; Huang, P.; Zhang, W.; Hamilton, S.R.

Journal of Biological Chemistry 280(5): 3295-3304


ISSN/ISBN: 0021-9258
PMID: 15546879
DOI: 10.1074/jbc.m409930200
Accession: 017822213

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The thymidylate synthase inhibitor 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) is used widely for chemotherapy of colorectal carcinoma. Recent studies showed that 5-FU affects polyamine metabolism in colon carcinoma cells. We therefore examined whether combinations of 5-FU with drugs that specifically target polyamine metabolism, i.e. N1,N11-diethylnorspermine (DENSPM) or alpha-difluoromethylornithine (DFMO), have synergistic effects in killing HCT116 colon carcinoma cells with wild-type or absent p53. Our results showed that simultaneous 5-FU and DENSPM, a spermine analogue, synergistically increased transcript levels of the polyamine catabolism enzyme spermidine/spermine N1-acetyltransferase, depleted spermine and spermidine, increased acetylated spermidine, and produced synergistic tumor cell apoptosis in both p53 wild-type and p53-null variants. By contrast, simultaneous combination of 5-FU with DFMO, an inhibitor of the polyamine biosynthetic enzyme ornithine decarboxylase, depleted putrescine but did not produce synergistic cell killing. Some pre-treatment and post-treatment regimens of DENSPM and DFMO were antagonistic to 5-FU depending on cellular p53 status. Protein and transcriptome expression analysis showed that combined 5-FU and DENSPM treatment activated caspase 9, but not caspase 3, and significantly suppressed NADH dehydrogenases and cytochrome c oxidases, consistent with the observed increase in hydrogen peroxide, loss of mitochondrial membrane potential, and release of cytochrome c. Our findings demonstrate the importance of the polyamine pathway in 5-FU effects and suggest that the combination of 5-FU with DENSPM has potential for development as therapy for colorectal carcinoma.