L-asparaginase kills lymphoma cells by apoptosis

Michael D. Story, David W. Voehringer, L. Clifton Stephens, Raymond E. Meyn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

96 Scopus citations


Microscopic examination of histological sections of lymph nodes from a canine case of malignant lymphoma at 4 h after treatment with L-asparaginase revealed massive destruction of neoplastic cells by what was consistent with apoptosis morphologically. Apoptosis as the mode of cell death after asparaginase treatment was confirmed in a mouse lymphoma cell line (LY-TH) by the characteristic fragmentation of DNA into oligonucleosome-sized pieces and by the morphological changes consistent with apoptosis following treatment in vitro. Applied to these cells, asparaginase was found to be most cytotoxic over the range of 1-10 IU/ml. Even after 4 h of asparaginase treatment at 100 IU/ml, protein synthesis was reduced by only one-half, yet DNA fragmentation reached 40%. Other agents that affect protein synthesis (cycloheximide and actinomycin D) caused apoptosis as well; however, agents (radiation, prednisolone, and VP-16) whose mechanisms are different from inhibition of protein synthesis also caused apoptosis. As such, it seems unlikely that protein depletion per se and/or the elimination of specific shortlived proteins is the triggering event that leads to cell death. It is more likely that the suspension of cellular proliferation commits cells to apoptosis after asparaginase treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)129-133
Number of pages5
JournalCancer Chemotherapy and Pharmacology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1993

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Cancer Research
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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