Ribonucleotide reductases (RNRs) play a central role in replication and repair by catalyzing the conversion of nucleotides to deoxynucleotides. Gemcitabine 5'-diphosphate (F2CDP), the nucleoside of which was recently approved by the FDA for treatment of pancreatic cancer, is a potent mechanism-based inhibitor of class I and II RNRs. Inactivation of the Escherichia coli class I RNR is accompanied by loss of two fluorides and one cytosine. This RNR is composed of two homodimeric subunits: R1 and R2. R1 is the site of nucleotide reduction, and R2 contains the essential diferric- tyrosyl radical cofactor. The mechanism of inactivation depends on the availability of reductant. In the presence of reductant [thioredoxin (TR)/thioredoxin reductase (TRR)/NADPH or dithiothreitol], inhibition results from R1 inactivation. In the absence of reductant with prereduced R1 and R2, inhibition results from loss of the essential tyrosyl radical in R2. The same result is obtained with C754S/C759S-R1 in the presence of TR/TRR/NADPH. In both cases, tyrosyl radical loss is accompanied by formation of a new stable radical (0.15-0.25 equiv/RNR). EPR studies in 2H20, with [U-2H]R1, and examination of the microwave power saturation of the observed signal, indicate by process of elimination that this new radical is nucleotide- based. In contrast to all previously investigated 2'-substituted nucleotide inhibitors of RNR, inactivation is not accompanied by formation of a new protein-associated chromophore under any conditions. The requirement for reductant in the R1 inactivation pathway, the lack of chromophore on the protein, the loss of two fluoride ions, and the stoichiometry of the inactivation all suggest a unique mechanism of RNR inactivation not previously observed with other 2'-substituted nucleotide inhibitors of RNR. This unique mode of inactivation is proposed to be responsible for its observed clinical efficacy.
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