Cell-penetrating conjugates of pentaglutamylated methotrexate as potential anticancer drugs against resistant tumor cells

Authors: Szabo, Ildiko; Orban, Erika; Schlosser, Gitta; Hudecz, Ferenc; Banoczi, Zoltan; European Journal of Medicinal Chemistry; (2016); 10.1016/j.ejmech.2016.03.034

The emerging resistance of tumor cells against methotrexate (MTX) is one of the major limitations of the MTX treatment of tumorous diseases. The disturbance in the polyglutamation which is a main step in the mechanism of methotrexate action is often the reason of the resistance. Delivery of polyglutamylated MTX into cells may evade the mechanisms that are responsible for drug resistance. In this study conjugates of methotrexate and its pentaglutamylated derivatives with cell-penetrating peptides - penetratin and octaarginine - were investigated. The cellular-uptake and in vitro cytostatic activity of conjugates were examined on breast cancer cell cultures (MDA-MB-231 as resistant and MCF-7 as sensitive cell culture). These cell cultures showed very different behaviour towards the conjugates. Although the presence of pentaglutamyl moiety significantly decreased the internalisation of conjugates, some of them were significantly active in vitro. All of the conjugates were able to penetrate in some extent into both cell types, but only the conjugates of penetratin showed in vitro cytostatic activity. The most effective conjugates were the MTX-Glu5-Penetratin(desMet) and MTX-Glu5-GFLG-Penetratin(desMet). The latter was effective on both cell cultures while the former was active only on the resistant tumor cells. Our results suggest that the translocation of polyglutamylated MTX may be a new way to treat sensitive and more importantly resistant tumors. While both penetratin and octaarginine peptides were successfully used to deliver several kinds of cargos earlier in our case the activity of penetratin conjugates was more pronounced.