Farnesyl protein transferase (FPTase) catalyzes the first of a series of posttranslational modifications of Ras required for full biological activity. Peptidomimetic inhibitors of FPTase have been designed that selectively block farnesylation in vivo and in vitro. These inhibitors prevent Ras processing and membrane localization and are effective in reversing the transformed phenotype of Rat1-v-ras cells but not that of cells transformed by v-raf or v-mos. We have tested the effect of the FPTase inhibitor L-744,832 (FTI) on the anchorage-dependent and -independent growth of human tumor cell lines. The growth of over 70% of all tumor cell lines tested was inhibited by 2–20 µm of the FTI, whereas the anchorage-dependent growth of nontransformed epithelial cells was less sensitive to the effects of the compound. No correlation was observed between response to drug and the origin of the tumor cell or whether it contained mutationally activated ras. In fact, cell lines with wild-type ras and active protein tyrosine kinases in which the transformed phenotype may depend on upstream activation of the ras pathway were especially sensitive to the drug. To define the important targets of FTI action, the mechanism of cellular drug resistance was examined. It was not a function of altered drug accumulation or of FPTase insensitivity since, in all cell lines tested, FPTase activity was readily inhibited within 1 h of treatment with the inhibitor. Furthermore, the general pattern of inhibition of cellular protein farnesylation and the specific inhibition of lamin B processing were the same in sensitive and resistant cells. In addition, functional activation of Ras was inhibited to the same degree in sensitive and resistant cell lines. However, the FTI inhibited the epidermal growth factor-induced activation of mitogen-activated protein kinases in sensitive cells but not in two resistant cell lines. These data suggest that the drug does inhibit ras function and that resistance in some cells is associated with the presence of Ras-independent pathways for mitogen-activated protein kinase activation by tyrosine kinases. We conclude that FPTase inhibitors are potent antitumor agents with activity against many types of human cancer cell lines, including those with wild-type ras.


Supported in part by the National Cancer Institute of the NIH, Grant CA 58706-01 (to N. R.).

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