Mithramycin selectively inhibits transcription of G-C containing DNA

Am J Med Sci. 1987 Nov;294(5):388-94. doi: 10.1097/00000441-198711000-00015.


Mithramycin induces a reversible inhibition of cellular RNA synthesis without affecting DNA synthesis. The authors have shown this drug induces myeloid differentiation of HL-60 promyelocytic leukemia cells and is an effective agent in certain patients with chronic granulocytic leukemia. In order to investigate the mechanism by which this drug inhibits RNA synthesis we have compared the effect of mithramycin on RNA synthesis by whole cells, isolated nuclei, and RNA synthesis by isolated E. coli RNA polymerase and eukaryotic RNA polymerase II. Exposure of HL-60 cells to mithramycin at concentrations of 4.6 X 10(-7) m or higher for 48 hours causes an almost immediate inhibition of RNA synthesis (up to 85% at 4 hours) with only modest cytotoxicity at these concentrations. Endogenous RNA synthesis by isolated nuclei can be inhibited by mithramycin only at high concentrations (greater than 10(-5) m), suggesting that mithramycin primarily may inhibit initiation, rather than elongation. Mithramycin inhibits in vitro transcription of salmon sperm DNA by E. coli RNA polymerase at DNA:drug ratios similar to those required for RNA synthesis inhibition in whole cells. Similar DNA binding studies with synthetic oligonucleotides demonstrate that mithramycin is a potent inhibitor of transcription of Poly dG.dC by E. coli RNA polymerase but has no effect on transcription of Poly dA.dT. The rapid inhibition of whole cell and isolated RNA polymerase transcription, and the relative insensitivity of isolated nuclei, suggest mithramycin may interact with specific DNA sequences in order to inhibit the initiation of RNA synthesis in intact cells.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Base Composition
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism
  • DNA, Neoplasm / analysis
  • DNA, Neoplasm / genetics*
  • DNA-Directed RNA Polymerases / metabolism
  • Escherichia coli
  • Humans
  • Plicamycin / pharmacology*
  • RNA, Neoplasm / biosynthesis*
  • RNA, Neoplasm / genetics
  • Transcription, Genetic / drug effects*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured / metabolism


  • DNA, Neoplasm
  • RNA, Neoplasm
  • DNA-Directed RNA Polymerases
  • Plicamycin