Antileukemic activity of combined epigenetic agents, DNMT inhibitors zebularine and RG108 with HDAC inhibitors, against promyelocytic leukemia HL-60 cells
Tumor suppressor genes that have been silenced by aberrant DNA methylation are potential targets for reactivation by novel chemotherapeutic agents. The potent inhibitor of DNA methylation and antileukemic agent, 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine (5-AZA-CdR, Decitabine), can reactivate silent tumor suppressor genes. One hindrance to the curative potential of 5-AZA-CdR is its rapid in vivo inactivation by cytidine deaminase (CD). An approach to overcome this obstacle is to use 5-AZA-CdR in combination with zebularine (Zeb), a potent inhibitor of CD. Zeb also possesses independent antineoplastic activity due to its inhibition of DNA methylation. We tested the capacity of 5-AZA-CdR and Zeb alone and in combination to inhibit growth and colony formation of different leukemic cell lines. 5-AZA-CdR and Zeb in combination produced a greater inhibition of growth against murine L1210 lymphoid leukemic cells, and a greater reduction in colony formation by L1210 and human HL-60 myeloid leukemic cells, than either agent alone. The ability of these agents to reactivate the tumor suppressor gene, p57KIP2, was also tested using RT-PCR. The combination produced a synergistic reactivation of p57KIP2 in HL-60 leukemic cells. A methylation-specific PCR assay showed that this combination also induced a significantly greater demethylation level of the p57KIP2 promoter than either drug alone. The in vivo antineoplastic activity of the agents was evaluated in mice with L1210 leukemia. A greater increase in survival time of mice with L1210 leukemia was observed with the combination than with either agent alone using three different dose schedules. The enhanced activity observed with 5-AZA-CdR plus Zeb in both murine and human leukemic cells lines provides a rationale for the clinical investigation of these drugs in patients with advanced leukemia. The probable mechanism of this drug interaction involves inhibition of CD by Zeb and the complementary inhibition of DNA methylation by both agents.