Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Stimulation of dihydrofolate reductase promoter activity by antimetabolic drugs.

PMID 1833762


Dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR; EC is required in folate metabolism for the synthesis of purines, thymidine, and glycine. Although there have been several reports of induction of DHFR enzyme by methotrexate (MTX), a drug that competitively inhibits DHFR, there are no studies reported that examine the effect of MTX on DHFR gene transcription. We have examined the effect of MTX and other inhibitors of DNA synthesis on DHFR transcription using a transient expression assay. MTX stimulates transient expression in a concentration-dependent manner from a hamster DHFR promoter construct containing 150 base pairs 5' to the start of transcription. Addition of either tetrahydrofolate or hypoxanthine plus thymidine prevents the promoter induction in response to MTX, suggesting that stimulation by MTX results from inhibition of these metabolites. Furthermore, two other antimetabolic drugs--fluorodeoxyuridine and hydroxyurea--also stimulate the DHFR promoter in a concentration-dependent manner. In contrast, aphidicolin, which blocks cell growth through inhibition of DNA polymerase alpha, has no effect on the DHFR promoter. The potential relevance of these results to cross-resistance to chemotherapeutic agents and to the process of gene amplification is discussed.