MTX peptides in which the amino acid was linked to the α-carboxyl group have been prepared and examined for cytotoxicity before and after treatment with proteolytic enzymes. The alanine, aspartic acid and arginine derivatives (MTX-ala, MTX-asp and MTX-arg) were synthesized by a regio-specific route, following the general procedures of Rosowsky and Montgomery. Each compound was obtained in good yield, and purity was established by TLC, HPLC, absorbance spectra and elemental analyses. The MTX peptides were not hydrolyzed by a variety of proteolytic enzymes (e.g., trypsin, plasmin, urokinase, aminopeptidase). Pancreatic carboxypeptidase A, however, hydrolyzed MTX-ala readily, MTX-asp slowly and MTX-arg not at all. The MTX-ala and, to a lesser extent, MTX-arg were substrates for pancreatic carboxypeptidase B. MTX-arg was also hydrolyzed by the endogenous carboxypeptidase N in human serum. The cytotoxicity of these MTX peptides toward L1210 cells was measured in a microculture assay system using a tetrazolium dye. MTX-ala was weakly cytotoxic (ID50= 2.0 × 10-6m) compared to MTX (ID50= 2.4 × 10-8m). When MTX-ala was tested in the presence of carboxypeptidase A, the ID50value improved to 8.5 × 10-8m. MTX-arg gave an ID50of 5.0 × 10-8m, which was not unexpected in view of its susceptibility to hydrolysis by the carboxypeptidase activity present in the fetal calf serum of the culture medium. Inclusion of carboxypeptidase B lowered the ID50value to 2.5 × 10-8m. Possible clinical uses of MTX peptides are discussed. © 1988.
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