Hydroquinone (HQ) is a benzene derivative that is found in large quantities in cigarette tar as a result of the pyrolysis of tobacco flavinoids. HQ is a potent inhibitor of T cell proliferation, causing an immediate and complete cessation of DNA synthesis in IL-2-dependent human T lymphoblasts and Jurkat T cells without loss of cell viability. Previous studies from our laboratory demonstrated that the antiproliferative effects of HQ could be partially reversed by the addition of deoxyribonucleosides, but not by the corresponding ribonucleosides, suggesting that HQ might inhibit ribonucleotide reductase. In the present study, the molecular mechanism behind this observation was further investigated. Jurkat T cells were stably transfected with a pMEP4 expression vector containing the gene for the M2 subunit of ribonucleotide reductase under transcriptional control of the human metallothionein IIA promoter. M2-transfected Jurkat T cells exhibited a greater than three-fold increase in resistance to HQ compared to untransfected cells or cells transfected with the M2 gene in the reverse orientation. HQ resistance was associated with an increased level of M2 protein detected by Western blot. These results suggest that the benzene derivative inhibits lymphocyte proliferation by inhibiting ribonucleotide reductase.
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