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Biochem J. 2003 Oct 15;375(Pt 2):465-70.

Inhibition of human ornithine decarboxylase activity by enantiomers of difluoromethylornithine.

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Arizona Cancer Center, The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85724, USA.


Racemic difluoromethylornithine (D/L-DFMO) is an inhibitor of ODC (ornithine decarboxylase), the first enzyme in eukaryotic polyamine biosynthesis. D/L-DFMO is an effective anti-parasitic agent and inhibitor of mammalian cell growth and development. Purified human ODC-catalysed ornithine decarboxylation is highly stereospecific. However, both DFMO enantiomers suppressed ODC activity in a time- and concentration-dependent manner. ODC activity failed to recover after treatment with either L- or D-DFMO and dialysis to remove free inhibitor. The inhibitor dissociation constant (K(D)) values for the formation of enzyme-inhibitor complexes were 28.3+/-3.4, 1.3+/-0.3 and 2.2+/-0.4 microM respectively for D-, L- and D/L-DFMO. The differences in these K(D) values were statistically significant ( P <0.05). The inhibitor inactivation constants (K(inact)) for the irreversible step were 0.25+/-0.03, 0.15+/-0.03 and 0.15+/-0.03 min(-1) respectively for D-, L- and D/L-DFMO. These latter values were not statistically significantly different ( P >0.1). D-DFMO was a more potent inhibitor (IC50 approximately 7.5 microM) when compared with D-ornithine (IC50 approximately 1.5 mM) of ODC-catalysed L-ornithine decarboxylation. Treatment of human colon tumour-derived HCT116 cells with either L- or D-DFMO decreased the cellular polyamine contents in a concentration-dependent manner. These results show that both enantiomers of DFMO irreversibly inactivate ODC and suggest that this inactivation occurs by a common mechanism. Both enantiomers form enzyme-inhibitor complexes with ODC, but the probability of formation of these complexes is 20 times greater for L-DFMO when compared with D-DFMO. The rate of the irreversible reaction in ODC inactivation is similar for the L- and D-enantiomer. This unexpected similarity between DFMO enantiomers, in contrast with the high degree of stereospecificity of the substrate ornithine, appears to be due to the alpha-substituent of the inhibitor. The D-enantiomer may have advantages, such as decreased normal tissue toxicity, over L- or D/L-DFMO in some clinical applications.

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