The platelet-lowering drug anagrelide inhibits bone marrow megakaryocytopoiesis by an unknown mechanism. Recently, it was found that anagrelide is bio-transformed in humans into two major metabolites (6,7-dichloro-3-hydroxy-1,5 dihydro-imidazo[2,1-b]quinazolin-2-one (BCH24426) and 2-amino-5,6-dichloro-3,4,-dihydroquinazoline (RL603). Whether these metabolites have biological activities that may underlie the mode of action of the parent drug is presently unclear. To clarify this question here we have compared the activities of anagrelide, BCH24426 and RL603 on the growth and differentiation of CD34(+) haematopoietic progenitor cells in liquid culture and on the migration of differentiated megakaryocytes. Incubation with either anagrelide, BCH24426 or RL603 did not affect the early expansion of CD34(+) cells stimulated by thrombopoietin. In contrast, both anagrelide and BCH24426 potently inhibited the development of megakaryocytes (IC(50) +/- s.e.m. = 26 +/- 4 and 44 +/- 6 nM, respectively), whereas RL603 showed no significant effect. Anagrelide and BCH24426 did not affect erythroid or myelomonocytic differentiation stimulated by erythropoietin or granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor, demonstrating the selectivity of these compounds against the megakaryocytic lineage. Neither anagrelide nor its metabolites showed a significant effect on the migratory response of megakaryocytes towards stromal cell-derived factor-1alpha. Although BCH24426 was shown to be considerably more potent than anagrelide as an inhibitor of phosphodiesterase type III (PDEIII) (IC(50) = 0.9 vs 36 nM) this activity did not correlate with the potency of inhibition of megakaryocyte development. Furthermore, other PDEIII inhibitors of widely differing potency were shown to have negligible effects on megakaryocytopoiesis. Taken together our results demonstrate that anagrelide and BCH24426 target a cellular event involved specifically in the megakaryocyte differentiation programme, which is independent of PDEIII inhibition.
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