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Biochemistry and pharmacology of glycinamide ribonucleotide formyltransferase inhibitors: LY309887 and lometrexol

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Lometrexol, a tight-binding antifolate inhibitor of the purine de novo enzyme glycinamide ribonucleotide formyltransferase (GARFT), was the first GARFT inhibitor to be investigated clinically. Unexpected observations of delayed cumulative toxicity prompted a search for a second generation antimetabolite with a more favorable biochemical, pharmacological and toxicological profile. LY309887, 6R-2′,5′-thienyl-5,10-dideazatetrahydrofolic acid, had 9-fold greater potency to inhibit GARFT (Ki = 6.5 nM) compared to lometrexol. Like lometrexol, LY309887 was activated by folypolyglutamate synthetase, however, it had a lower first order rate constant. In vitro and in vivo data were consistent with these observations: polyglutamation of LY309887 was less extensive compared to lometrexol and livers of mice accumulated fewer polyglutamates of LY309887 than polyglutamates of lometrexol. The affinities of these two compounds for isoforms of human folate receptors (FR) were compared. Lometrexol had a 6-fold higher affinity for FRα than LY309887 and both compounds had higher affinity for the α isoform compared to the β isoform. The selectivity of LY309887 for FRα (β(Ki)/α(Ki) = 10.5) was twice that of lometrexol's (β/α = 5.0). Lometrexol and LY309887 were potent cytotoxic compounds against the human leukemia cell line CCRF-CEM with IC50's of 2.9 nM and 9.9 nM, respectively. In vivo, LY309887 was more potent than lometrexol at inhibiting tumor growth in the C3H mammary murine tumor model and several tumor xenografts. Excellent efficacy was achieved by both compounds in several colon xenografts. In two pancreatic human xenografts, LY309887 achieved greater efficacy than lometrexol. In summary, the biochemical and pharmacological properties of lometrexol and LY309887 support the hypothesis that these antifolates will have clinical activity against human solid tumors. LY309887 is a second generation GARFT inhibitor with biochemical and pharmacological properties which distinguish it from lometrexol and suggest that it will have broad antitumor activity, a different pharmacokinetic profile and produce less toxicity than lometrexol in cancer patients.

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Correspondence to Laurane G. Mendelsohn.

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Mendelsohn, L.G., Shih, C., Schultz, R.M. et al. Biochemistry and pharmacology of glycinamide ribonucleotide formyltransferase inhibitors: LY309887 and lometrexol. Invest New Drugs 14, 287–294 (1996). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00194532

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Key words

  • antifolate
  • cytotoxicity
  • antitumor
  • GAR formyltransferase
  • antimetabolite