Nitric oxide (NO) released from NO donors can be cytotoxic in tumor cells and can enhance the transport of drugs into brain tumors by altering blood-tumor barrier permeability. The NO donor JS-K [O(2)-(2,4-dinitrophenyl) 1-[(4-ethoxycarbonyl)piperazin-1-yl]diazen-1-ium-1,2-diolate] releases NO upon enzymatic activation selectively in cells overexpressing glutathione-S-transferases (GSTs) such as gliomas. Thus, JS-K-dependent NO effects - especially on cell viability and vascular permeability - were investigated in U87 glioma cells in vitro and in an orthotopic U87 xenograft model in vivo by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). In vitro experiments showed dose-dependent antiproliferative and cytotoxic effects in U87 cells. In addition, treatment of U87 cells with JS-K resulted in a dose-dependent activation of soluble guanylate cyclase and intracellular accumulation of cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) which was irreversibly inhibited by the selective inhibitor of soluble guanylate cyclase ODQ (1H-[1,2,4]oxadiazolo(4,3a)quinoxaline-1-one). Using dynamic contrast enhanced MRI (DCE-MRI) as a minimally invasive technique, we demonstrated for the first time a significant increase in the DCE-MRI read-out initial area under the concentration curve (iAUC60) indicating an acute increase in blood-tumor barrier permeability after i.v. treatment with JS-K. Repeated MR imaging of animals with intracranial U87 gliomas under treatment with JS-K (3.5 μmol/kg JS-K 3×/week) and of untreated controls on day 12 and 19 after tumor inoculation revealed no significant changes in tumor growth, edema formation or tumor perfusion. Immunohistochemical workup of the brains showed a significant antiproliferative effect of JS-K in the gliomas. Taken together, in vitro and in vivo data suggest that JS-K has antiproliferative effects in U87 gliomas and opens the blood-tumor barrier by activation of the NO/cGMP signaling pathway. This might be a novel approach to facilitate entry of therapeutic drugs into brain tumors. DCE-MRI is a non-invasive, repeatable imaging modality to monitor biological effects of NO donors and other experimental therapeutics in intracranial tumor models.
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