7-N-{{2-{[2-(γ-l-Glutamylamino)ethyl]dithio}ethyl}}mitomycin C (KW-2149) is an analogue of mitomycin C (MMC) and has prominent activities against various tumors. We studied the antitumor effects of KW-2149 in MMC-resistant variants of human colon carcinoma HT-29 (HT-29/MMC) and mouse hepatoma Hepa-I (C4, B13NBii1) cells, which are deficient in DT-diaphorase and cytochrome P450 reductase, respectively. These enzymes mediate the reductive activation of MMC in the cells. Although HT-29/MMC and C4, B13NBii1 cells showed significant resistance to MMC, they showed sensitivity to KW-2149 comparable to their parental tumors, indicating that DT-diaphorase and cytochrome P450 reductase could not be involved in the activation of KW-2149. In studying the activation mechanism of KW-2149, we found that glutathione (GSH) and cysteine significantly enhanced the cytotoxicity of KW-2149 in HT-29 cells. The DNA adduct of KW-2149 was increased when HT-29 cells or the isolated nuclei of the cells were incubated with KW-2149 in the presence of physiological concentrations of GSH and cysteine. KW-2149 alkylated calf thymus DNA in the presence of GSH and cysteine in vitro. These results indicate that activation of KW-2149 by thiol moiecules, unlike MMC, could be an important activation mechanism of KW-2149 to form DNA adduct and to exert its cytotoxicity. This is the reason why KW-2149 is effective against MMC-resistant tumors with deficiencies in the MMC activation enzymes.

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This work was supported in part by a Grant-in-Aid for Cancer Research from the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture, Japan.

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