Role of the hMLH1 DNA mismatch repair protein in fluoropyrimidine-mediated cell death and cell cycle responses

M. Meyers, M. W. Wagner, H. S. Hwang, T. J. Kinsella, D. A. Boothman

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DNA mismatch repair (MMR) is an efficient system for the detection and repair of mismatched and unpaired bases in DNA. Deficiencies in MMR are commonly found in both hereditary and sporadic colorectal cancers, as well as in cancers of other tissues. Because fluorinated thymidine analogues (which through their actions might generate lesions recognizable by MMR) are widely used in the treatment of colorectal cancer, we investigated the role of MMR in cellular responses to 5-fluorouracil and 5-fluoro-2′-deoxyuridine (FdUrd). Human MLH1- and MMR-deficient HCT116 colon cancer cells were 18-fold more resistant to 7.5 μM 5-fluorouracil (continuous treatment) and 17-fold more resistant to 7.5 μM FdUrd in clonogenic survival assays compared with genetically matched, MLH1+ and MMR-proficient HCT116 3-6 cells. Likewise, murine MLH1- and MMR-deficient CT-5 cells were 3-fold more resistant to a 2-h pulse of 10 μM FdUrd than their MLH1+ and MMR-proficient ME-10 counterparts. Decreased cytotoxicity in MMR-deficient cells after treatment with various methylating agents and other base analogues has been well reported and is believed to reflect a tolerance to DNA damage. Synchronized HCT116 3-6 cells treated with a low dose of FdUrd had a 2-fold greater G2 cell cycle arrest compared with MMR-deficient HCT116 cells, and asynchronous ME-10 cells demonstrated a 4-fold greater G2 arrest after FdUrd treatment compared with CT-5 cells. Enhanced G2 arrest in MMR-proficient cells in response to other agents has been reported and is believed to allow time for DNA repair. G2 cell cycle arrest as determined by propidium iodide staining was not a result of mitotic arrest, but rather a true G2 arrest, as indicated by elevated cyclin B1 levels and a lack of staining with mitotic protein monoclonal antibody 2. Additionally, p53 and GADD45 levels were induced in FdUrd-treated HCT116 3-6 cells. DNA double-strand break (DSB) formation was 2-fold higher in MMR-proficient HCT116 3-6 cells after FdUrd treatment, as determined by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis. The formation of DSBs was not the result of enhanced apoptosis in MMR-proficient cells. FdUrd-mediated cytotoxicity was caused by DNA-directed and not RNA-directed effects, because administration of excess thymidine (and not uridine) prevented cytotoxicity, cell cycle arrest, and DSB formation, hMLH1-dependent responses to fluoropyrimidine treatment, which may involve the action of p53 and the formation of DSBs, clearly have clinical relevance for the use of this class of drugs in the treatment of tumors with MMR deficiencies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5193-5201
Number of pages9
JournalCancer research
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 1 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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