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Biochem Pharmacol. 1993 Apr 22;45(8):1631-44.

Contribution of 4-methylthio-2-oxobutanoate and its transaminase to the growth of methionine-dependent cells in culture. Effect of transaminase inhibitors.

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Laboratorie d'Immunochimie, INSERM CJF 89-05, Université Claude Bernard, Lyon I, Qullins, France.


The growth in culture of methionine-dependent transformed cells of human, rat and mouse origin was arrested in the absence of L-methionine (Met) but took place in the presence of 4-methylthio-2-oxobutanoic acid (MTOB), the keto acid of Met. From 24 hr after seeding, cells grew in 0.1 mM MTOB medium at a rate comparable to that in 0.1 mM Met medium. Using [35S]MTOB, it was found that the Met synthesized was used in normal MRC-5 cells and in transformed HeLa cells to the same extent for protein, adenosylmethionine and adenosylhomocysteine syntheses. However, when the free Met content was examined, it was found to be 3-fold greater in HeLa than in MRC-5 cells. To examine the importance of this free Met for the growth of transformed cells, the transaminase responsible for converting MTOB to Met was chosen as a target enzyme for the synthesis of compounds with potential inhibitory activity. Since this is a multisubstrate enzyme, reduced Schiff bases were prepared containing both pyridoxal or other aromatic groups, as one constituent, and L-Met or other amino-acids in the free acid or ester or amide form, as the other constituent. Only esters containing the pyridoxal moiety and Met or certain of its structural analogues exhibited good selective growth inhibitory activity in that there was little (20%) or no effect on the growth of normal MRC-5 and derm cells, respectively, while that of transformed HeLa, HEp-2 and L1210 cells was strongly inhibited (80%). This inhibition was accompanied by a concomitant decrease in the activity of the MTOB transaminase in both HeLa and MRC-5 cells treated with 3c the most potent inhibitor. However, using [35S]MTOB it was found that MTOB itself accumulated 48% in HeLa but only 12% in MRC-5 cells treated with 3c. On the contrary [35S]Met formed from [35S]MTOB increased 3.7-fold in MRC-5 inhibitor-treated cells showing 20% growth inhibition whereas it decreased 38% in HeLa-treated cells showing 80% growth inhibition. This decrease in cellular Met in HeLa is not responsible for growth arrest. Indeed the growth of HeLa cells could not be restored by adding a 10-fold excess of Met. Since MTOB can alleviate Met-dependence, the intracellular homeostasis of this metabolite may play a hitherto unsuspected role in controlling cell growth.

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