The role of DT-diaphorase in bioreductive activation of mitomycin C was examined using HT-29 and BE human carcinoma cells which have high and low levels of DT-diaphorase activity, respectively. HT-29 cells were more sensitive to mitomycin C-induced cytotoxicity than the DT-diaphorase-deficient BE cell line. Mitomycin C induced DNA interstrand cross-linking in HT-29 cells but not in BE cells. Both mitomycin C-induced cytotoxicity and induction of DNA interstrand cross-links could be inhibited by pretreatment of HT-29 cells with dicoumarol. Metabolism of mitomycin C by HT-29 cell cytosol was pH dependent and increased as the pH was lowered to 5.8, the lowest pH tested. Metabolism of mitomycin C by HT-29 cytosol was inhibited by prior boiling of cytosol or by the inclusion of dicoumarol. Little metabolism was detected in BE cytosols. When purified rat hepatic DT-diaphorase was used, metabolism of mitomycin C increased as the pH was decreased and could be detected at pH 5.8, 6.4, 7.0, 7.4, but not at 7.8. Metabolism of mitomycin C was NADH dependent and inhibited by dicoumarol or by prior boiling of enzyme. An approximate 1:1 stoichiometry between NADH and mitomycin C removal was demonstrated and no oxygen consumption could be detected. Metabolism of mitomycin C by purified HT-29 DT-diaphorase was also dicoumarol inhibitable and pH dependent. The major metabolite formed during metabolism of mitomycin C by HT-29 cytosol, purified HT-29, and rat hepatic DT-diaphorase was characterized as 2,7-diaminomitosene. These data suggest that two-electron reduction of mitomycin C by DT-diaphorase may be an important determinant of mitomycin C-induced genotoxicity and cytotoxicity.

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Supported by grant RO1CA 51210 from the National Cancer Institute. Parts of this work have been presented in abstract form at the Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, Washington, DC, 1990 (Proc. Am. Assoc. Cancer Res., 31: 2367, 1990).

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