Ribonucleotide reductase plays a central role in cell proliferation by supplying deoxyribonucleotide precursors for DNA synthesis and repair. The holoenzyme is a protein tetramer that features two large (hRRM1) and two small (hRRM2 or p53R2) subunits. The small subunit contains a di-iron cluster/tyrosyl radical cofactor that is essential for enzyme activity. Triapine (3-aminopyridine-2-carboxaldehyde thiosemicarbazone, 3-AP) is a new, potent ribonucleotide reductase inhibitor currently in phase II clinical trials for cancer chemotherapy. Ferric chloride readily reacts with Triapine to form an Fe(III)-(3-AP) complex, which is reduced to Fe(II)-(3-AP) by DTT. Spin-trapping experiments with 5,5-dimethyl-1-pyrroline-N-oxide prove that Fe(II)-(3-AP) reduces O2 to give oxygen reactive species (ROS). In vitro activity assays show that Fe(II)-(3-AP) is a much more potent inhibitor of hRRM2 /hRRM1 and p53R2/hRRM1 than Triapine. Electron paramagnetic resonance measurements on frozen solutions of hRRM2 and p53R2 show that their tyrosyl radicals are completely quenched by incubation with Fe(II)-(3-AP). However, the enzyme activity is maintained in protein samples supplemented with catalase alone or in combination with superoxide dismutase. Furthermore, catalase alone or in combination with superoxide dismutase markedly decreases the antiproliferative effect of Triapine in cytotoxicity assays. These results indicate that Triapine-induced inhibition of ribonucleotide reductase is caused by ROS. We suggest that ROS may ultimately be responsible for the pharmacologic effects of Triapine in vivo.
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