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Br J Pharmacol. 2003 Mar;138(5):811-8.

Ajoene, a garlic compound, inhibits protein prenylation and arterial smooth muscle cell proliferation.

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Department of Pharmacological Sciences, University of Milan, Milan, Italy.


(1) Ajoene is a garlic compound with anti-platelet properties and, in addition, was shown to inhibit cholesterol biosynthesis by affecting 3-hydroxy-3-methyl-glutaryl coenzyme A (HMG-CoA) reductase and late enzymatic steps of the mevalonate (MVA) pathway. (2) MVA constitutes the precursor not only of cholesterol, but also of a number of non-sterol isoprenoids, such as farnesyl and geranylgeranyl groups. Covalent attachment of these MVA-derived isoprenoid groups (prenylation) is a required function of several proteins that regulate cell proliferation. We investigated the effect of ajoene on rat aortic smooth muscle cell proliferation as related to protein prenylation. (3) Cell counting, DNA synthesis, and cell cycle analysis showed that ajoene (1-50 micro M) interfered with the progression of the G1 phase of the cell cycle, and inhibited rat SMC proliferation. (4) Similar to the HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor simvastatin, ajoene inhibited cholesterol biosynthesis. However, in contrast to simvastatin, the antiproliferative effect of ajoene was not prevented by the addition of MVA, farnesol (FOH), and geranylgeraniol (GGOH). Labelling of smooth muscle cell cellular proteins with [3H]-FOH and [3H]-GGOH was significantly inhibited by ajoene. (5) In vitro assays for protein farnesyltransferase (PFTase) and protein geranylgeranyltransferase type I (PGGTase-I) confirmed that ajoene inhibits protein prenylation. High performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and mass spectrometry analyses also demonstrated that ajoene causes a covalent modification of the cysteine SH group of a peptide substrate for protein PGGTase-I. (6) Altogether, our results provide evidence that ajoene interferes with the protein prenylation reaction, an effect that may contribute to its inhibition of SMC proliferation.

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