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Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2012 Dec 1;84(5):e613-20. doi: 10.1016/j.ijrobp.2012.06.050. Epub 2012 Aug 3.

Short hairpin RNA suppression of thymidylate synthase produces DNA mismatches and results in excellent radiosensitization.

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Department of Pharmacology, University of Michigan Medical Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.



To determine the effect of short hairpin ribonucleic acid (shRNA)-mediated suppression of thymidylate synthase (TS) on cytotoxicity and radiosensitization and the mechanism by which these events occur.


shRNA suppression of TS was compared with 5-fluoro-2'-deoxyuridine (FdUrd) inactivation of TS with or without ionizing radiation in HCT116 and HT29 colon cancer cells. Cytotoxicity and radiosensitization were measured by clonogenic assay. Cell cycle effects were measured by flow cytometry. The effects of FdUrd or shRNA suppression of TS on dNTP deoxynucleotide triphosphate imbalances and consequent nucleotide misincorporations into deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) were analyzed by high-pressure liquid chromatography and as pSP189 plasmid mutations, respectively.


TS shRNA produced profound (≥ 90%) and prolonged (≥ 8 days) suppression of TS in HCT116 and HT29 cells, whereas FdUrd increased TS expression. TS shRNA also produced more specific and prolonged effects on dNTPs deoxynucleotide triphosphates compared with FdUrd. TS shRNA suppression allowed accumulation of cells in S-phase, although its effects were not as long-lasting as those of FdUrd. Both treatments resulted in phosphorylation of Chk1. TS shRNA alone was less cytotoxic than FdUrd but was equally effective as FdUrd in eliciting radiosensitization (radiation enhancement ratio: TS shRNA, 1.5-1.7; FdUrd, 1.4-1.6). TS shRNA and FdUrd produced a similar increase in the number and type of pSP189 mutations.


TS shRNA produced less cytotoxicity than FdUrd but was equally effective at radiosensitizing tumor cells. Thus, the inhibitory effect of FdUrd on TS alone is sufficient to elicit radiosensitization with FdUrd, but it only partially explains FdUrd-mediated cytotoxicity and cell cycle inhibition. The increase in DNA mismatches after TS shRNA or FdUrd supports a causal and sufficient role for the depletion of dTTP thymidine triphosphate and consequent DNA mismatches underlying radiosensitization. Importantly, shRNA suppression of TS avoids FP-mediated TS elevation and its negative prognostic role. These studies support the further exploration of TS suppression as a novel radiosensitizing strategy.

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