Uracil DNA misincorporation and misrepair of DNA have been recognized as important events accompanying thymidylate synthase (TS) inhibition. dUTPase catalyses the hydrolysis of dUTP to dUMP, thereby maintaining low intracellular dUTP. We have addressed the relationship between dUTPase expression and cellular sensitivity to TS inhibition in four human lung tumour cell lines. Sensitivity (5-day MTT assay) to the growth inhibitory effects of the non-polyglutamatable, specific quinazoline TS inhibitor ZD9331, varied up to 20-fold (IC(50)3-70 nM). TS protein expression correlated with TS activity (r(2)= 0.88, P = 0.05). Intracellular concentrations of drug following exposure to ZD9331 (1 microM, 24 h) varied by approximately 2-fold and dTTP pools decreased by > 80% in all cell lines. No clear associations across the cell lines between intracellular drug concentrations, TS activity/expression, or TTP depletion could be made. dUTPase activity varied 17-fold and correlated with dUTPase protein expression (r(2)= 0.94, P = 0.03). There was a striking variation in the amount of dUTP formed following exposure to ZD9331 (between 1.3 and 57 pmole 10(-6)cells) and was in general inversely associated with dUTPase activity. A large expansion in the dUTP pool was associated with increased sensitivity to a 24-h exposure to ZD9331 in A549 cells that have low dUTPase activity/expression. dUTPase expression and activity were elevated (approximately 3-fold) in two variants of a human lymphoblastoid cell line with acquired resistance to TS inhibitors, further suggesting an important role for this enzyme in TS inhibited cells.
Copyright 2000 Cancer Research Campaign.