NADPH Alkenal/One Oxidoreductase Activity Determines Sensitivity of Cancer Cells to the Chemotherapeutic Alkylating Agent Irofulven

Ryan A. Dick, Xiang Yu, Thomas W. Kensler

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38 Scopus citations


Illudins S and M are extremely cytotoxic products of the fungus Omphalotus illudens. They were evaluated as possible anticancer chemotherapeutic agents but displayed unfavorable therapeutic indices. Irofulven (6-hydroxymethylacylfulvene), a less toxic, synthetic derivative of illudin S, has proven very effective in many preclinical and clinical studies. It has been postulated that metabolism via hydrogenation of the 8,9-double bonds of these molecules would unmask the electrophilic, and thus, the toxic nature of their cyclopropyl moieties. Illudins S and M were found to be rapidly metabolized by NADPH-dependent alkenal/one oxidoreductase (AOR) with maximal rates of 115.9 and 44.1 μmol min-1 mg-1, and Kms of 308 and 109 μM, respectively. Irofulven was reduced at a much slower rate: V max 275 nmol min-1 mg-1 and Km 145 μM. Human 293 cells transfected with an AOR overexpression vector were 100-fold more sensitive than control cells to irofulven, but displayed little differential sensitivity to illudin M. Addition of glutathione to the α,β-unsaturated ketone moiety of illudin M, but not irofulven, occurred readily at physiological concentrations. Electrophilic intermediates of irofulven and illudin M that were activated by AOR were trapped with glutathione and identified by high performance liquid chromatography with tandem mass spectrometry. Samples of the 60 human tumor cell line panel used by the National Cancer Institute to evaluate potential chemotherapeutic compounds were assayed for AOR activity, which correlated positively with previously determined growth inhibitory measures for irofulven, but not illudin M or S. Collectively, these data indicate that bioactivation of irofulven by AOR plays a predominant role in its chemotherapeutic activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1492-1499
Number of pages8
JournalClinical Cancer Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 15 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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