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

The role of the N-(hydroxymethyl)melamines as antitumour agents: mechanism of action studies.

The hexamethylmelamine analogue trimelamol (tris-hydroxymethyl[trimethyl]melamine) and its equicytotoxic stable analogues CB 7547, CB 7639 and CB 7669 have been used to clarify the mechanism of action for the N-(hydroxymethyl)melamines as antitumour agents. Two main mechanisms have been proposed and explored: (i) formation of a reactive iminium species forming covalent adducts with DNA; and (ii) local formaldehyde release leading to cytotoxic damage. 32P-postlabelling and thermal denaturation experiments showed these compounds to be interactive with cytosine and guanine. Trimelamol gave rise to DNA-interstrand crosslinks in naked plasmid DNA and in cultured cell lines, whereas the analogues failed to do so under a variety of experimental conditions. Along with our observations that cell lines with acquired resistance to the N-(hydroxymethyl)melamines showed no significant cross-resistance to classical bifunctional alkylating agents, DNA crosslinking may play only a minor role in their mechanism of action. In cultured cell lines treatment with formaldehyde, trimelamol and CB 7639 gave rise to high levels of DNA-protein crosslinks with a gradual disappearance over a 24 hr period. Along with our earlier observation that resistance to trimelamol coincides with cross-resistance to formaldehyde, we conclude that formaldehyde-release may be an important factor in their cytotoxicity. Further, the cytotoxicity of trimelamol or formaldehyde towards human ovarian cancer cells was not influenced by glutathione depletion. As the precise mechanism of action for the N-(hydroxymethyl)melamines is apparently not shared by many commonly used anticancer agents, this may confer their broad-spectrum activity versus heavily pretreated tumours.[1]


  1. The role of the N-(hydroxymethyl)melamines as antitumour agents: mechanism of action studies. Coley, H.M., Brooks, N., Phillips, D.H., Hewer, A., Jenkins, T.C., Jarman, M., Judson, I.R. Biochem. Pharmacol. (1995) [Pubmed]
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