New pemetrexed-peptide conjugates: synthesis, characterization and in vitro cytostatic effect on non-small cell lung carcinoma (NCI-H358) and human leukemia (HL-60) cells

Authors: Miklan, Zsanett; Orban, Erika; Banoczi, Zoltan; Hudecz, Ferenc; Journal of Peptide Science; (2011); 10.1002/psc.1407

Pemetrexed (Pem) is a novel antimetabolite type of anticancer drug that demonstrated promising clinical activity in a wide variety of solid tumors, including non-small cell lung carcinoma and malignant pleural mesothelioma. It inhibits enzymes involved in the folate pathway, for which the presence of its free carboxylic groups is necessary. The heteroaromatic ring system of Pem has a modifiable amino group, which opens a possibility to apply a new strategy to conjugate Pem to carrier molecules. Considering this as well as the necessity of untouched carboxylic groups of Pem in the new conjugates, we developed a new synthesis strategy. Here, we describe the synthesis and the characterization of new Pem-peptide conjugates in which cell-penetrating octaarginine or/and lung-targeting H-Ile-Glu-Leu-Leu-Gln-Ala-Arg-NH(2) peptide is attached to the drug by thioether bond. The conjugates characterized by RP-HPLC and MS exhibited cytostatic effect in vitro on non-small cell lung carcinoma as well as on human leukemia cell lines. The IC(50) values of the conjugates were similar, but the conjugates with H-Ile-Glu-Leu-Leu-Gln-Ala-Arg-NH(2) sequence were slightly more effective. Our data show that the in vitro cytostatic effect of the free Pem was essentially maintained after conjugation with cell-penetrating or cell-targeting peptides. Thus, the conjugation strategy reported could lead to the development of a new generation of active Pem conjugates.