Regulation and drug resistance mechanisms of mammalian ribonucleotide reductase, and the significance to DNA synthesis

Biochem Cell Biol. 1990 Dec;68(12):1364-71. doi: 10.1139/o90-199.


Mammalian ribonucleotide reductase, which occupies a key position in the synthesis of DNA, is a highly controlled enzyme activity, because it is solely responsible for the de novo reduction of ribonucleoside diphosphates to their corresponding deoxyribonucleoside diphosphate forms, required for DNA synthesis. Ribonucleotide reductase consists of two dissimilar protein components often called M1 and M2, which are independently regulated during cell proliferation. The M1 component contains multiple effector binding sites and is responsible for the complex allosteric regulation of the enzyme, whereas the M2 protein contains nonheme iron and a unique tyrosyl-free radical required for ribonucleotide reduction. Since the reaction is rate limiting for DNA synthesis, ribonucleotide reductase plays an important role in regulating cell division, and hence, cell proliferation. There are many inhibitors of ribonucleotide reductase and perhaps the most valuable one from a cell biology, biochemistry, and clinical point of view is the hydroxamic acid, hydroxyurea. This drug has also been very useful as a selective agent for isolating a variety of mammalian mutant cell lines altered in ribonucleotide reductase gene expression. Regulatory, structural, and biological characteristics of ribonucleotide reductase are reviewed, including evidence that ribonucleotide reductase, particularly the M2 protein, has an important early role to play in tumor promotion. In addition, modifications in the expressions of genes altered in hydroxyurea-resistant mutants and cultured in the absence or presence of hydroxyurea are discussed, with emphasis on changes in M2 protein, M1 protein, and the iron-storage protein ferritin.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Allosteric Regulation
  • Animals
  • Cell Division
  • DNA Replication*
  • Deoxyribonucleotides / biosynthesis
  • Drug Resistance / genetics
  • Enzyme Induction / drug effects
  • Ferritins / metabolism
  • Free Radicals
  • Gene Amplification
  • Hydroxyurea / pharmacology
  • Iron / metabolism
  • Mammals / metabolism
  • Models, Biological
  • Ribonucleotide Reductases / genetics
  • Ribonucleotide Reductases / metabolism*
  • Ribonucleotides / metabolism


  • Deoxyribonucleotides
  • Free Radicals
  • Ribonucleotides
  • Ferritins
  • Iron
  • Ribonucleotide Reductases
  • Hydroxyurea