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Mol Cancer Ther. 2013 Jul;12(7):1310-21. doi: 10.1158/1535-7163.MCT-12-1042. Epub 2013 Apr 12.

Metabolomics identifies pyrimidine starvation as the mechanism of 5-aminoimidazole-4-carboxamide-1-β-riboside-induced apoptosis in multiple myeloma cells.

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Division of Hematology-Oncology, Greater Los Angeles VA Healthcare Center, 111H, VA West LA Med Ctr., 11301 Wilshire BLVD, Los Angeles, CA 90073, USA.


To investigate the mechanism by which 5-aminoimidazole-4-carboxamide-1-β-riboside (AICAr) induces apoptosis in multiple myeloma cells, we conducted an unbiased metabolomics screen. AICAr had selective effects on nucleotide metabolism, resulting in an increase in purine metabolites and a decrease in pyrimidine metabolites. The most striking abnormality was a 26-fold increase in orotate associated with a decrease in uridine monophosphate (UMP) levels, indicating an inhibition of UMP synthetase (UMPS), the last enzyme in the de novo pyrimidine biosynthetic pathway, which produces UMP from orotate and 5-phosphoribosyl-α-pyrophosphate (PRPP). As all pyrimidine nucleotides can be synthesized from UMP, this suggested that the decrease in UMP would lead to pyrimidine starvation as a possible cause of AICAr-induced apoptosis. Exogenous pyrimidines uridine, cytidine, and thymidine, but not purines adenosine or guanosine, rescued multiple myeloma cells from AICAr-induced apoptosis, supporting this notion. In contrast, exogenous uridine had no protective effect on apoptosis resulting from bortezomib, melphalan, or metformin. Rescue resulting from thymidine add-back indicated apoptosis was induced by limiting DNA synthesis rather than RNA synthesis. DNA replicative stress was identified by associated H2A.X phosphorylation in AICAr-treated cells, which was also prevented by uridine add-back. Although phosphorylation of AICAr by adenosine kinase was required to induce multiple myeloma cell death, apoptosis was not associated with AMP-activated kinase activation or mTORC1 inhibition. A possible explanation for inhibition of UMP synthase activity by AICAr was a depression in cellular levels of PRPP, a substrate of UMP synthase. These data identify pyrimidine biosynthesis as a potential molecular target for future therapeutics in multiple myeloma cells.

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