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Biochem J. Sep 15, 2000; 350(Pt 3): 757–763.
PMCID: PMC1221307

Novel triterpenoids inhibit both DNA polymerase and DNA topoisomerase.


As described previously, we found that new triterpenoid compounds, designated fomitellic acids A and B, which selectively inhibit the activities of mammalian DNA polymerases alpha and beta [Mizushina, Tanaka, Kitamura, Tamai, Ikeda, Takemura, Sugawara, Arai, Matsukage, Yoshida and Sakaguchi (1998) Biochem. J. 330, 1325-1332; Tanaka, Kitamura, Mizushina, Sugawara and Sakaguchi (1998) J. Nat. Prod. 61, 193-197] and that a known triterpenoid, ursolic acid, is an inhibitor of human DNA topoisomerases I and II (A. Iida, Y. Mizushina and K. Sakaguchi, unpublished work). Here we report that all of these triterpenoids are potent inhibitors of calf DNA polymerase alpha, rat DNA polymerase beta and human DNA topoisomerases I and II, and show moderate inhibitory effects on plant DNA polymerase II and human immunodeficiency virus reverse transcriptase. However, these compounds did not influence the activities of prokaryotic DNA polymerases such as Escherichia coli DNA polymerase I or other DNA metabolic enzymes such as human telomerase, T7 RNA polymerase and bovine deoxyribonuclease I. These triterpenoids were not only mammalian DNA polymerase inhibitors but also inhibitors of DNA topoisomerases I and II even though the enzymic characteristics of DNA polymerases and DNA topoisomerases, including their modes of action, amino acid sequences and three-dimensional structures, differed markedly. These triterpenoids did not bind to DNA, suggesting that they act directly on these enzymes. Because the three-dimensional structures of fomitellic acids were shown by computer simulation to be very similar to that of ursolic acid, the DNA-binding sites of both enzymes, which compete for the inhibitors, might be very similar. Fomitellic acid A and ursolic acid prevented the growth of NUGC cancer cells, with LD(50) values of 38 and 30 microM respectively.

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Selected References

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