The Role of Human Equilibrative Nucleoside Transporter 1 on the Cellular Transport of the DNA Methyltransferase Inhibitors 5-Azacytidine and CP-4200 in Human Leukemia Cells.

Molecular pharmacology

PubMedID: 23814180

Hummel-Eisenbeiss J, Hascher A, Hals PA, Sandvold ML, Müller-Tidow C, Lyko F, Rius M. The Role of Human Equilibrative Nucleoside Transporter 1 on the Cellular Transport of the DNA Methyltransferase Inhibitors 5-Azacytidine and CP-4200 in Human Leukemia Cells. Mol Pharmacol. 2013;84(3):438-50.
The nucleoside analog 5-azacytidine is an archetypical drug for epigenetic cancer therapy, and its clinical effectiveness has been demonstrated in the treatment of myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) and acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). However, therapy resistance in patients with MDS/AML remains a challenging issue. Membrane proteins that are involved in drug uptake are potential mediators of drug resistance. The responsible proteins for the transport of 5-azacytidine into MDS/AML cells are unknown. We have now systematically analyzed the expression and activity of various nucleoside transporters. We identified the human equilibrative nucleoside transporter 1 (hENT1) as the most abundant nucleoside transporter in leukemia cell lines and in AML patient samples. Transport assays using [(14)C]5-azacytidine demonstrated Na(+)-independent uptake of the drug into the cells, which was inhibited by S-(4-nitrobenzyl)-6-thioinosine (NBTI), a hENT1 inhibitor. The cellular toxicity of 5-azacytidine and its DNA demethylating activity were strongly reduced after hENT1 inhibition. In contrast, the cellular activity of the 5-azacytidine derivative 5-azacytidine-5'-elaidate (CP-4200), a nucleoside transporter-independent drug, persisted after hENT1 inhibition. A strong dependence of 5-azacytidine-induced DNA demethylation on hENT1 activity was also confirmed by array-based DNA methylation profiling, which uncovered hundreds of loci that became demethylated only when hENT1-mediated transport was active. Our data establish hENT1 as a key transporter for the cellular uptake of 5-azacytidine in leukemia cells and raise the possibility that hENT1 expression might be a useful biomarker to predict the efficiency of 5-azacytidine treatments. Furthermore, our data suggest that CP-4200 may represent a valuable compound for the modulation of transporter-related 5-azacytidine resistances.