Rescue from enhanced alkylator-induced cell death with low molecular weight sulfur-containing chemoprotectants

Leslie L. Muldoon, Shannan L. Walker-Rosenfeld, Christopher Hale, Shawna E. Purcell, Lisa C. Bennett, Edward A. Neuwelt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Modulation of glutathione has been proposed as a mechanism to alter the efficacy and toxicity of chemotherapeutic agents. We investigated in vitro cytoenhancement of chemotherapy toxicity by reducing cellular glutathione levels with L-buthionine-[S,R]-sulfoximine (BSO), and chemoprotection with small molecular weight sulfur-containing agents that mimic or replace glutathione. Cytotoxicity, caspase-2 enzymatic activity, and in situ DNA staining for apoptosis were assessed in cultured human small cell lung carcinoma cells and fibroblasts. BSO treatment reduced the half-maximal cytotoxic dose of the alkylating chemotherapeutics melphalan, carboplatin, and cisplatin, and increased the total magnitude of cell death. Melphalan was more sensitive than carboplatin or cisplatin to BSO. The chemoprotective agents sodium thiosulfate, N-acetylcysteine, and glutathione ethyl ester reduced the cytotoxicity of all three alkylating chemotherapeutics regardless of BSO treatment, but D-methionine was effective only against the platinum agents. N-Acetylcysteine was the most effective protectant tested. Chemoprotection against melphalan toxicity was maximally effective only if administered concurrent with chemotherapy, whereas chemoprotection for the platinum agents remained effective if delayed 4 h after chemotherapy. BSO enhancement and N-acetylcysteine chemoprotection for melphalan toxicity occurred at least partially through an apoptotic mechanism. Modulation of glutathione levels will be valuable in the clinical setting if chemotherapy and chemoprotectant can be physically and/or temporally separated. Cytoenhancement and chemoprotection may be particularly useful in the central nervous system where the blood-brain barrier of the cerebral vasculature creates two compartments, for cytoenhancement in brain tumors and systemic chemoprotection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)797-805
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology


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