Spectrum of toxicities of amino acid methyl esters for myeloid cells is determined by distinct metabolic pathways.

PMID 1737105


L-leucine methyl ester (Leu-OMe), Leu-Leu-OMe, Phe-OMe, and Glu-(OMe)2 are toxic to mononuclear phagocytes (M phi) and neutrophils. In the present studies, the mechanism of this toxicity was examined. A concentration of NH4Cl known to neutralize lysosomal pH and to block conversion of Leu-OMe to the dipeptide condensation product Leu-Leu-OMe inhibited Leu-OMe- or Glu-(OMe)2- but not Leu-Leu-OMe-mediated M phi toxicity. Leu-OMe-, Glu-(OMe)2-, or Leu-Leu-OMe-mediated killing of M phi was prevented by Gly-Phe-CHN2, a specific inhibitor of the thiol protease, dipeptidyl peptidase I (DPPI). Neither NH4Cl nor Gly-Phe-CHN2 prevented Phe-OMe-mediated M phi toxicity. In contrast, inhibition of M phi serine esterase activity prevented Phe-OMe- but not Leu-OMe- or Glu-(OMe)2-mediated killing of M phi. The myeloid tumor lines U937, HL60, and THP-1 were found to be uniformly enriched in DPPI and susceptible to Leu-Leu-OMe but not Leu-OMe toxicity. Whereas HL60 were resistant to Phe-OMe, THP-1 cells were killed by this agent. Incubation of peripheral blood mononuclear cells with Leu-OMe resulted in loss of natural killer (NK) functions and cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) precursors, a process that requires the DPPI-dependent generation of membranolytic polymerization products. Phe-OMe had no toxic effects on NK cells or CTL precursors. These results indicate that Leu-OMe and Glu-(OMe)2 toxicity for M phi is related to the production of higher molecular weight hydrophobic polymerization products via the sequential action of two nonserine esterase lysosomal enzymes. In contrast, Phe-OMe toxicity for myeloid cells was found to correlate with serine esterase-mediated intracellular trapping of high concentrations of the free amino acid Phe. These distinct enzymatic mechanisms may provide a unique means of targeting agents capable of selectively deleting cells of myeloid lineage.