Antimitogenic and chemosensitizing effects of the methylation inhibitor zebularine in ovarian cancer

Curtis Balch, Pearlly Yan, Teresa Craft, Suzanne Young, David G. Skalnik, Tim H.M. Huang, Kenneth P. Nephew

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

122 Scopus citations


Deoxycytosine methylation within CpG islands of tumor suppressor genes plays a prominent role in the development and progression of drug-resistant ovarian cancer. Consequently, epigenetic therapies directed toward tumor suppressor demethylation/reexpression could potentially reverse malignant phenotypes and chemosensitize recalcitrant tumors. In this report, we examined the demethylating agent zebularine [1-(β-D-ribofuranosyl)-1,2-dihydropyrimidin-2-one], in comparison with the well-known methylation inhibitor 5-aza-2′-deoxycytidine (5-aza-dC), for its ability to inhibit ovarian cancer cell proliferation and to demethylate and induce tumor suppressor genes. Zebularine exerted significant (> 5-aza-dC) antiproliferative effects against the ovarian cancer cell lines Hey, A2780, and the cisplatin-resistant A2780/CP in a dose-dependent manner (65% versus 35% inhibition at 48 hours, zebularine versus 5-aza-dC). Moreover, 48-hour treatment with 0.2 mmol/L zebularine significantly induced demethylation of the tumor suppressors ras-associated domain family 1A and human MutL homologue-1. RASSF1A gene reexpression was also observed, as was reexpression of two other tumor suppressors, ARHI and BLU, although levels differed from those induced by 5-aza-dC. Global analyses of DNA methylation revealed similar overall demethylation (2.5- to 3-fold) by 5-aza-dC and zebularine as determined by methyl acceptance assay. However, differences in demethylation of individual loci were observed as determined by differential methylation hybridization. Finally, we found that zebularine could resensitize the drug-resistant cell line A2780/CP to cisplatin, with a 16-fold reduction in the IC50 of that conventional agent. In summary, zebularine seems to be a promising clinical candidate, singly or combined with conventional regimens, for the therapy of drug-resistant ovarian cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1505-1514
Number of pages10
JournalMolecular cancer therapeutics
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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