Histone deacetylase inhibition enhances the therapeutic effects of methotrexate on primary central nervous system lymphoma


Neurooncol Adv. 2020 Jul 3;2(1):vdaa084. doi: 10.1093/noajnl/vdaa084. eCollection 2020 Jan-Dec.


BACKGROUND: Polyglutamylation is a reversible protein modification that commonly occurs in tumor cells. Methotrexate (MTX) in tumor cells is polyglutamylated and strongly binds to dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR) without competitive inhibition by leucovorin. Therefore, tumor cells with high polyglutamylation levels are supposed to be selectively killed, whereas normal cells with lower polyglutamylation are rescued by leucovorin. This study investigated the combined effects of MTX plus histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDACIs), which upregulate MTX polyglutamylation, in primary central nervous system lymphoma (PCNSL).

METHODS: We evaluated cell viability after MTX treatment and leucovorin rescue and compared the expression of folylpolyglutamate synthetase (FPGS), γ-glutamyl hydrolase (GGH), and DHFR in 2 human PCNSL-derived cell lines (HKBML and TK) and a human Burkitt lymphoma cell line (TL-1). Combination treatments were created using 4 HDACIs: panobinostat, vorinostat, sodium butyrate, and valproic acid. The expression of DHFR was examined as well as ratios of FPGS/GGH expression. The combined effects of MTX plus HDACIs were evaluated using a cell viability assay, mass spectroscopy imaging, and subcutaneous and intracranial xenograft models.

RESULTS: HDACIs upregulated the ratio of FPGS/GGH expression resulting in increased polyglutamylation of MTX, but also downregulated expression of the target molecule of MTX: DHFR. The combination of MTX and vorinostat decreased cell viability in vitro (P < .05) and tumor volumes in a subcutaneous model (P < .0001), and prolonged survival in an intracranial model (P < .01), relative to controls.

CONCLUSION: HDACIs enhanced the therapeutic effect of MTX through increased polyglutamylation of MTX and concomitant downregulation of DHFR expression.