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BCNU [1,3-bis(2-chloroethyl)-1-nitrosourea], a bifunctional (alkylating/carbamoylating) anticancer agent, in noncytotoxic doses (12-50 μM) inhibited drug-induced apoptosis in HT58 human lymphoma cells exposed to etoposide (ETO; 50 μM) as well as in mouse thymocytes exposed to dexamethasone (5 μg/ml) in vitro in 4-h cultures. The cytoplasmic extracts of ETO-treated HT58 cells cleaved both purified poly(ADP-ribose)polymerase and Ac-Asp-Glu-Val-Asp-7-amino-4-methylcoumarin fluorogenic caspase substrate, indicating the presence of active caspases, and these effects were inhibited by BCNU concentration dependently. The carbamoylating decomposite, 2-chloroethyl-isocyanate (6-25 μM), also decreased ETO-induced apoptosis in HT58 cells in vitro and their caspase 3-like activity ex vivo, whereas N-(2- chloroethyl)-N-nitrosocarbamoyl-valinamide, an alkylating and mainly intramolecularly carbamoylating nitrosourea derivative (400 μM), did not influence these phenomena. Furthermore, the activity of recombinant caspase 3 was also strongly inhibited by BCNU and 2-chloroethyl-isocyanate. These results indicate that BCNU, via its carbamoylating capacity, can inactivate cysteine protease(s) essential for ETO-induced apoptosis. This apoptosis- modulating property of BCNU, in turn, may influence the efficacy of chemotherapeutic protocols in the treatment of cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)614-618
Number of pages5
JournalCancer Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Feb 15 1998


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

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