Biochemical pharmacology

The flavoprotein FOXRED2 reductively activates nitro-chloromethylbenzindolines and other hypoxia-targeting prodrugs.

PMID 24632291


The nitro-chloromethylbenzindoline prodrug SN29428 has been rationally designed to target tumour hypoxia. SN29428 is metabolised to a DNA minor groove alkylator via oxygen-sensitive reductive activation initiated by unknown one-electron reductases. The present study sought to identify reductases capable of activating SN29428 in tumours. Expression of candidate reductases in cell lines was modulated using forced expression and, for P450 (cytochrome) oxidoreductase (POR), by zinc finger nuclease-mediated gene knockout. Affymetrix microarray mRNA expression of flavoreductases was correlated with SN29428 activation in a panel of 23 cancer cell lines. Reductive activation and cytotoxicity of prodrugs were measured using mass spectrometry and antiproliferative assays, respectively. SN29428 activation under hypoxia was strongly attenuated by the pan-flavoprotein inhibitor diphenyliodonium, but less so by knockout of POR suggesting other flavoreductases contribute. Forced expression of 5-methyltetrahydrofolate-homocysteine methyltransferase reductase (MTRR), as well as POR, increased activation of SN29428 in hypoxic HCT 116 cells. SN29428 activation strongly correlated with expression of POR and also FAD-dependent oxidoreductase domain containing 2 (FOXRED2), in cancer cell lines. This association persisted after removing the effect of POR enzyme activity using first-order partial correlation. Forced expression of FOXRED2 increased SN29428 activation and cytotoxicity in hypoxic HEK293 cells and also increased activation of hypoxia-targeted prodrugs PR-104A, tirapazamine and SN30000, and increased cytotoxicity of the clinical-stage prodrug TH-302. Thus this study has identified three flavoreductases capable of enzymatically activating SN29428, one of which (FOXRED2) has not previously been implicated in xenobiotic metabolism. These results will inform future development of biomarkers predictive of SN29428 sensitivity.