G2 accumulation and melanin overproduction in malignant melanocytes treated with a new nitrosourea

Melanoma Res. 1998 Dec;8(6):517-27. doi: 10.1097/00008390-199812000-00007.


Cystemustine (N'-(2-chloroethyl)-N-(2-(methylsulphonyl)ethyl)-N'-nitrosourea), a new anticancer chloroethylnitrosourea (CENU) is being tested in a phase II clinical trial of disseminated melanoma. The antitumour effect of this drug is mainly due to DNA damage in malignant melanocytes. Recently, we have shown that this damage can induce apoptosis in some melanoma cell lines. In others, apoptosis is not clearly observed, although there is a strong cytostatic effect. In this paper, we have characterized the cytological effect of cystemustine on murine malignant melanocytes (B16 cell line) which are resistant to apoptosis induced by this CENU. The results show that 3 days after cystemustine treatment, these melanocytes had accumulated in phase G2 of the cell cycle. There was then a strong morphological modification during a long cytostatic phase up to 30 days after treatment. During this cytostatic phase, there was uncontrolled DNA synthesis and marked swelling. Also, tyrosinase activity, melanin content and the number of mature melanosomes were greatly increased. These results suggest that when malignant melanocytes are not able to undergo apoptosis after treatment with CENU, they accumulate in G2 and this is followed by enhancement of melanogenesis.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Flow Cytometry
  • G2 Phase*
  • Melanins / biosynthesis*
  • Melanoma, Experimental / drug therapy*
  • Melanoma, Experimental / metabolism
  • Melanoma, Experimental / pathology*
  • Mice
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Monophenol Monooxygenase / metabolism
  • Nitrosourea Compounds / therapeutic use*
  • Time Factors
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Melanins
  • Nitrosourea Compounds
  • N'-(2-chloroethyl)-N-(2-(methylsulfonyl)ethyl)-N'-nitrosourea
  • Monophenol Monooxygenase