Effect of long-term depletion of plasma methionine on the growth and survival of human brain tumor xenografts in athymic mice

Nutr Cancer. 1997;29(3):195-204. doi: 10.1080/01635589709514624.


Depletion of plasma methionine is expected to inhibit or reverse growth of methionine-dependent tumors; however, modulation of methionine and other sulfur amino acids is not a trivial task in experimental animals. L-Methioninase from Pseudomonas putida at 1,000 U/kg causes acute reduction of plasma methionine by 80% in mice, but recovery occurs within 14 hours. Restriction of dietary choline and replacement of dietary methionine with homocystine results in 50% chronic reduction of plasma methionine. A > 70% reduction can be accomplished with a diet deficient in methionine, homocystine, and choline, but ultimately this diet is lethal. Plasma methionine can be lowered to a steady state of < 5 microM in mice with a combination of dietary restriction of methionine, homocysteine, and choline and synchronous treatments with intraperitoneal injections of 1,000 U/kg L-methioninase and 25-50 mg/kg homocystine, each administered at 12-hour intervals. Modulation of plasma methionine by this means causes no weight loss or pathologies in liver or pancreas, and it does not markedly alter levels of cysteine, homocysteine, or glutathione in plasma or in hepatic tissue. When this procedure is applied to athymic mice bearing human medulloblastoma (Daoy) tumors subcutaneously, tumor growth is inhibited. Methionine deprivation arrests mitosis by blocking the cell cycle in G2 and induces apoptosis. Tumor stasis was achieved in 100% of treated animals within 4 days of treatment, and regression was seen in one-third of animals after a 10-day period. These data strongly support the use of methionine-depleting regimens for tumor treatments.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic / metabolism
  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic / therapeutic use
  • Brain Neoplasms / blood
  • Brain Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Brain Neoplasms / therapy
  • Carbon-Sulfur Lyases / metabolism
  • Carbon-Sulfur Lyases / therapeutic use
  • Cysteine / analysis
  • Cysteine / blood
  • Diet*
  • Glutathione / analysis
  • Glutathione / blood
  • Homocysteine / analysis
  • Homocysteine / blood
  • Humans
  • Liver / chemistry
  • Medulloblastoma / blood
  • Medulloblastoma / pathology*
  • Medulloblastoma / therapy
  • Methionine / blood*
  • Methionine / deficiency
  • Methionine / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Nude
  • Neoplasm Transplantation
  • Time Factors
  • Transplantation, Heterologous


  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic
  • Homocysteine
  • Methionine
  • Carbon-Sulfur Lyases
  • L-methionine gamma-lyase
  • Glutathione
  • Cysteine