Leinamycin is a structurally novel Streptomyces-derived natural product that displays very potent activity against various human cancer cell lines (IC50 values in the low nanomolar range). Previous in vitro biochemical studies have revealed that leinamycin alkylates DNA, generates apurinic (AP) sites and reactive oxygen species (ROS), and causes DNA strand breaks. However, it is not clear whether these events occur inside cells. In the present study, we have determined the endogenous amount of AP sites and DNA strand breaks in genomic DNA and the amount of oxidative stress in a human pancreatic carcinoma cell line, MiaPaCa, treated with leinamycin by utilizing the aldehyde-reactive probe assay, the comet assay, and fluorescent probes, respectively. We demonstrated that AP sites are formed rapidly following exposure to leinamycin, and the number of AP sites was increased up to seven-fold in a dose-dependent manner. However, only 25-50% of these sites remain 2 h after media containing drug molecules were aspirated and replaced with fresh media. We also observed leinamycin-induced ROS generation and a concomitant increase in apoptosis of MiaPaCa cells. Because both AP sites and ROS have the potential to generate strand breaks in cellular DNA, the comet assay was utilized to detect damage to nuclear DNA in leinamycin-treated MiaPaCa cell cultures. Both alkaline and neutral electrophoretic analysis revealed that leinamycin produces both single- and double-stranded DNA damage in drug-treated cells in a dose-dependent manner. Taken together, the results suggest that rapid conversion of leinamycin-guanine (N7) adducts into AP sites to produce DNA strand breaks, in synergy with leinamycin-derived ROS, accounts for the exceedingly potent biological activity of this natural product.
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