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Mol Pharmacol. 2013 Feb;83(2):339-53. doi: 10.1124/mol.112.080218. Epub 2012 Nov 29.

Enhanced degradation of dihydrofolate reductase through inhibition of NAD kinase by nicotinamide analogs.

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  • 1Departments of Pharmacology and Medicine, Cancer Institute of New Jersey, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA.


Dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR), because of its essential role in DNA synthesis, has been targeted for the treatment of a wide variety of human diseases, including cancer, autoimmune diseases, and infectious diseases. Methotrexate (MTX), a tight binding inhibitor of DHFR, is one of the most widely used drugs in cancer treatment and is especially effective in the treatment of acute lymphocytic leukemia, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and osteosarcoma. Limitations to its use in cancer include natural resistance and acquired resistance due to decreased cellular uptake and decreased retention due to impaired polyglutamylate formation and toxicity at higher doses. Here, we describe a novel mechanism to induce DHFR degradation through cofactor depletion in neoplastic cells by inhibition of NAD kinase, the only enzyme responsible for generating NADP, which is rapidly converted to NADPH by dehydrogenases/reductases. We identified an inhibitor of NAD kinase, thionicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPS), which led to accelerated degradation of DHFR and to inhibition of cancer cell growth. Of importance, combination treatment of NADPS with MTX displayed significant synergy in a metastatic colon cancer cell line and was effective in a MTX-transport resistant leukemic cell line. We suggest that NAD kinase is a valid target for further inhibitor development for cancer treatment.

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