Depsipeptide (FR901228): A novel therapeutic agent with selective, in vitro activity against human B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia cells

John C. Byrd, Charlotte Shinn, Rajani Ravi, Carl R. Willis, Jamie K. Waselenko, Ian W. Flinn, Nancy A. Dawson, Michael R. Grever

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

149 Scopus citations


Therapy of B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) has been limited by both the nonselectivity of therapeutic agents toward normal residual immune cells and inherent drug resistance. Identification of agents that spare normal immune effector cells, thus facilitating addition of immune-based therapies, and that modulate factors associated with drug resistance in CLL might represent a major therapeutic advance. Depsipeptide (FR901228) is a novel agent entering clinical trials that has selective in vitro activity against resistant leukemia cell lines. To assess its in vitro activity in CLL, we exposed peripheral mononuclear cells from CLL patients (n = 10) to varying concentrations of this agent. Viability of the CLL cells was reduced by 50% (LC50) at 4 hours, 24 hours, and 4 days at depsipeptide concentrations of 0.038, 0.024, and 0.015 μmol/L, respectively. Depsipeptide had marked selective cytotoxicity when compared with normal blood mononuclear cells, in which the LC50 was 3.44 μmol/L at 4 hours (P = .03), 0.965 μmol/L at 24 hours (P = .01), and 0.0318 μmol/L at 96 hours (P = .04). Inhibition of bone marrow progenitor cell growth was also minimal after incubation with 0.015 μmol/L (19% inhibition of colony forming unit- granulocyte-macrophage [CFU-GM]; 17% inhibition burst forming unit-erythroid [BFU-E]) and 3.44 μmol/L (24% inhibition of CFU-GM; 57% inhibition BFU-E) of depsipeptide for 4 hours, followed by a 14-day incubation period. Expression of apoptotic proteins after depsipeptide exposure (0.015 μmol/L) included no change in bcl-2, elevation of bax, and decreased expression of p27. These data demonstrate that depsipeptide has significant selective in vitro activity against human CLL cells concurrent with favorable alterations of the bcl-2:bax protein ratio and decrease in p27 expression. Such findings strongly support the early introduction of depsipeptide into clinical trials for patients with CLL.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1401-1408
Number of pages8
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 15 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Immunology
  • Hematology
  • Cell Biology


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