Determinants of antifolate cytotoxicity: Folylpolyglutamate synthetase activity during cellular proliferation and development

J. Barredo, R. G. Moran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Previous studies have documented the metabolism of a broad range of folate antimetabolites to polyglutamate derivatives by the enzyme folylpoly-γ-glutamate synthetase (FPGS). The activity of the more recently developed classes of antifolates directed against thymidylate synthase and de novo purine synthesis is sufficiently dependent on polyglutamation that these compounds should be specifically cytotoxic to any normal or malignant proliferating cell expressing this enzyme. We have studied the patterns of expression of FPGS in mammalian cells and tissues during rapid growth, growth arrest, differentiation, and embryonic development. During embryogenesis in the rat, FPGS levels in liver and brain were higher during the period of proliferative activity and then dropped to a level characteristic of the adult organs. However, the levels in liver were substantially higher than those in brain at any given time. This pattern was mimicked in mouse C3H 10T1/2 embryo fibroblast cells, in which FPGS activity decreased after cessation of growth but then remained at a lower steady state level during an extended period of postconfluent culture. Enzyme activity also dropped after the differentiation of human HL-60 promyelocytic leukemia cells. In a human homolog of these experimental systems, FPGS levels were below the limits of detection in circulating mature human hematopoietic cells of the granulocytic, lymphoblastic, and erythrocytic lineages. In striking contrast, substantial levels of FPGS were found in circulating lymphoblasts from eight patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The levels of FPGS found in these transformed stem cells would help to explain the sensitivity of many acute lymphoblastic leukemias to folate antimetabolites. We concluded that expression of FPGS is regulated by at least two mechanisms, one of which is linked to proliferation and the other of which controls enzyme levels after differentiation and is tissue specific.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)687-694
Number of pages8
JournalMolecular Pharmacology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1992
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology


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