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Anticancer Res. 1991 Jul-Aug;11(4):1617-24.

Comparative effects of L-methionine, S-adenosyl-L-methionine and 5'-methylthioadenosine on the growth of preneoplastic lesions and DNA methylation in rat liver during the early stages of hepatocarcinogenesis.

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Istituto di Patologia Generale, Università di Sassari, Italy.


Male Wistar rats, initiated with diethylnitrosamine (DENA), were subjected to a selection treatment, according to the "resistant hepatocyte" model, followed or not followed by phenobarbital (PB). Rats received, for 3 weeks after selection, 4 i.m. doses (96 mmol/kg) of L-methionine, S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAM), or 5'-methylthioadenosine (MTA), a SAM catabolite formed during polyamine synthesis or by spontaneous splitting of SAM at physiologic temperature and pH. They were then killed. In some rats, SAM and MTA treatments were started 20 weeks after initiation. The animals were killed 3 weeks later and persistent (neoplastic) nodules (PN) were collected. Some rat groups received 1/2 and 1/4 of the above SAM and MTA doses, or 1/8 of the above MTA dose. SAM and MTA, but not methionine, caused a dose-dependent decrease in number and surface area of gamma-glutamyltranspeptidase (GGT)-positive foci, and in labeling index (LI) of focal cells, coupled with remodeling. SAM and MTA liver contents, SAM/S-adenosylhomocysteine (SAH) ratio and overall methylation of liver DNA were low during the development of GGT-positive foci. SAM, but not methionine, caused a dose-dependent recovery of SAM content and DNA methylation, and a partial reconstitution of liver MTA pool. Exogenous MTA only induced the reconstitution of MTA pool, without affecting SAM level and DNA methylation. Recovery of SAM and MTA pool and DNA methylation was found in the rats subjected to SAM plus MTA, indicating the absence of inhibition of DNA methyltransferases in vivo by MTA. MTA also inhibited liver reparative growth in partially hepatectomized rats, without modifying SAM content and DNA methylation of regenerating liver (RL). A high activity of ornithine decarboxylase (ODC) was found in the liver, during the development of preneoplastic foci, and in PN. This activity was inhibited by SAM and MTA treatments. Although MTA was more effective than SAM, the decrease in ODC activity was coupled with a larger fall in DNA synthesis in SAM-treated than in MTA-treated rats. Thus the antipromotion effect of SAM could not merely depend on its (spontaneous) transformation into MTA. Although MTA production may play a role in the SAM antipromotion effect, other mechanisms could be involved. A role of DNA methylation in the inhibition of growth by SAM is suggested. MTA is a potential chemopreventive agent for liver carcinogenesis.

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