Biochemical modulation of methylation processes can be accomplished by agents which either reduce pools of S-adenosylmethionine (AdoMet), the principal methyl donor, or alternatively, which raise levels of S-adenosylhomocysteine (AdoHcy), a potent product inhibitor of methyltransferase reactions. Both strategies have apparent limitations arising from their direct interference with only one determinant of the intracellular AdoHcy/AdoMet ratio, a parameter proposed to be indicative of methylation inhibition. The biological consequences of maximally altering this ratio have been examined by the combined use of an inhibitor of AdoMet synthetase, l-2-amino-4-methoxy-cis-but-3-enoic acid (L-cisAMB), with inhibitors of AdoHcy hydrolase, 9-(trans-2′,trans-3′-dihydroxycyclopent-4′-enyl)adenine (DHCA) and neplanocin A. At concentrations which inhibited growth of L1210 cells by 50% at 48 h, L-cisAMB alone rapidly depleted AdoMet pools, while neplanocin A or DHCA alone led to an accumulation of AdoHcy. When L-cisAMB was combined with either neplanocin A or DHCA, AdoHcy increased and, concomitantly, AdoMet pools decreased. The resultant AdoHcy/AdoMet ratios for up to 48 h ranged from 2.2 to 3.6—a value 4-fold greater than those achieved with neplanocin A or DHCA alone. This elevation in the AdoHcy/AdoMet ratio was accompanied by marked and sustained interference with DNA and RNA methylation and with a near-total inhibition of cell growth for a period of 24 to 96 h. Thus, the combined treatment with these two types of mechanistically different methylation inhibitors resulted in significantly enhanced interference with nucleic acid methylation and cell growth, both of which correlated directly with unprecedented increases in the AdoHcy/AdoMet ratio. This approach may have therapeutic implications in antiviral and/or antitumor strategies targeting methylation.


This work was supported by National Cancer Institute Grants CA-13038 and CA-24538 and National Institute of General Medical Sciences Grant GM-29332.

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