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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Targeting Ras signaling through inhibition of carboxyl methylation: an unexpected property of methotrexate.

The antifolate methotrexate is one of the most successful drugs in cancer chemotherapy. Although its efficacy is widely attributed to a decrease in nucleotide biosynthesis (1), methotrexate is known to increase homocysteine (2), a compound associated with an elevated risk of heart disease, Alzheimer's disease (3), and neural tube defects (4). A potential mechanism for the detrimental effects of homocysteine is cellular hypomethylation from an increase in S-adenosylhomocysteine (5), an inhibitor of methyltransferases including isoprenylcysteine carboxyl methyltransferase ( Icmt). Among the substrates of Icmt is the monomeric G protein Ras, a critical component of many signaling pathways that regulate cell growth and differentiation. Because carboxyl methylation of Ras is important for proper plasma membrane localization and function (6), we investigated the role of Icmt in the antiproliferative effect of methotrexate. After methotrexate treatment of DKOB8 cells, Ras methylation is decreased by almost 90%. This hypomethylation is accompanied by a mislocalization of Ras to the cytosol and a 4-fold decrease in the activation of p44 mitogen- activated protein kinase and Akt. Additionally, cells lacking Icmt are highly resistant to methotrexate. Whereas cells expressing wild-type levels of Icmt are inhibited by methotrexate, stable expression of myristoylated H-Ras, which does not require carboxyl methylation for membrane attachment (7), confers resistance to methotrexate. These results suggest that inhibition of Icmt is a critical component of the antiproliferative effect of methotrexate, expanding our understanding of this widely used drug and identifying Icmt as a target for drug discovery.[1]


  1. Targeting Ras signaling through inhibition of carboxyl methylation: an unexpected property of methotrexate. Winter-Vann, A.M., Kamen, B.A., Bergo, M.O., Young, S.G., Melnyk, S., James, S.J., Casey, P.J. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. (2003) [Pubmed]
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