Effects of gemcitabine and araC on in vitro DNA synthesis mediated by the human breast cell DNA synthesome

Cancer Chemother Pharmacol. 2000;45(4):320-8. doi: 10.1007/s002800050047.


Purpose: Gemcitabine (dFdC) and cytarabine (araC) are both analogs of deoxycytidine. Gemcitabine is a relatively new drug that has been shown in both clinical trials and in vitro systems to have more potent antitumor activity than araC. We have previously isolated a fully functional multiprotein DNA replication complex from human cells and termed it the DNA synthesome. Using the DNA synthesome, we have successfully examined the mechanism of action of several anticancer drugs that directly affect DNA synthesis. In this study, we compared the effects of dFdC and araC on in vitro DNA synthesis mediated by the DNA synthesome with the effects of these drugs on intact MCF7 cell DNA synthesis.

Methods: We examined the effects of dFdC and araC on intact MCF7 cell DNA synthesis and clonogenicity. We also performed in vitro SV40 replication assays mediated by the MCF7 cell-derived DNA synthesome in presence of dFdCTP and araCTP. The types of daughter molecules produced in the assay were analyzed by neutral and alkaline agarose gel electrophoresis. Finally, we examined the effects ofdFdCTP and araCTP on the synthesome-associated DNA polymerase alpha and delta activities.

Results: Our results showed that dFdC was more potent than araC at inhibiting intact MCF7 cell DNA synthesis and clonogenicity. [3H]Thymidine incorporation was inhibited by 50% at a dFdC concentration of 10 microM, which was about tenfold lower than the concentration of araC required to inhibit intact cell DNA synthesis by the same amount. As examined by clonogenicity assay, dFdC was also significantly more cytotoxic than araC after a 24-h incubation. In vitro SV40 replication assays using the DNA synthesome derived from MCF7 cells demonstrated that the formation of full-length DNA along with replication intermediates were inhibited by dFdCTP in a concentration-dependent manner. Full-length DNA was produced in the in vitro DNA replication assay even when the dFdCTP was incubated in the assay at concentrations of up to 1 mM. We observed that in the presence of 10 microM dCTP, 3 microM dFdCTP and 60 microM araCTP were required to inhibit in vitro SV40 DNA synthesis by 50%. Although dFdCTP is more potent than araCTP at inhibiting in vitro SV40 DNA synthesis, there was no significant difference between the inhibitory effect of these two drugs on the activity of the MCF7 synthesome-associated DNA polymerases alpha and delta. It was found that the drug concentrations required to inhibit 50% of the synthesome-associated DNA polymerase delta activity were much higher than those required to inhibit 50% of DNA polymerase alpha activity for both dFdCTP and araCTP.

Conclusion: Taken together, our results demonstrated that: (1) dFdC is a more potent inhibitor of intact cell DNA synthesis and in vitro SV40 DNA replication than araC; (2) the decrease in the synthetic activity of synthesome-mediated in vitro SV40 origin-dependent DNA synthesis by dFdCTP and araCTP correlates with the inhibition of DNA polymerase alpha activity; and (3) the MCF7 cell DNA synthesome can serve as a unique and relevant model to study the mechanism of action of anticancer drugs that directly affect DNA synthesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, Polyomavirus Transforming / biosynthesis
  • Antigens, Polyomavirus Transforming / genetics
  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic / pharmacology*
  • Arabinofuranosylcytosine Triphosphate / pharmacology
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • Cytarabine / pharmacology*
  • DNA Polymerase I / metabolism
  • DNA Polymerase III / metabolism
  • DNA, Neoplasm / biosynthesis*
  • Deoxycytidine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Deoxycytidine / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Replicon / drug effects
  • Replicon / genetics
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Antigens, Polyomavirus Transforming
  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic
  • DNA, Neoplasm
  • Cytarabine
  • Deoxycytidine
  • Arabinofuranosylcytosine Triphosphate
  • gemcitabine
  • DNA Polymerase I
  • DNA Polymerase III