Increasing DNA repair methyltransferase levels via bone marrow stem cell transduction rescues mice from the toxic effects of 1,3-bis(2-chloroethyl)-1-nitrosourea, a chemotherapeutic alkylating agent

Rodney Maze, James P. Carney, Mark R. Kelley, Brian J. Glassner, David A. Williams, Leona Samson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

109 Scopus citations


The chloroethylnitrosourea (CNU) alkylating agents are commonly used for cancer chemotherapy, but their usefulness is limited by severe bone marrow toxicity that causes the cumulative depletion of all hematopoietic lineages (pancytopenia). Bone marrow CNU sensitivity is probably due to the inefficient repair of CNU-induced DNA damage; relative to other tissues, bone marrow cells express extremely low levels of the O6-methylguanine DNA methyltransferase (MGMT) protein that repairs cytotoxic O6-chloroethylguanine DNA lesions. Using a simplified recombinant retroviral vector expressing the human MGMT gene under control of the phosphoglycerate kinase promoter (PGK-MGMT) we increased the capacity of murine bone marrow-derived cells to repair CNU-induced DNA damage. Stable reconstitution of mouse bone marrow with genetically modified, MGMT-expressing hematopoietic stem cells conferred considerable resistance to the cytotoxic effects of 1,3-bis(2-chloroethyl)-1-nitrosourea (BCNU), a CNU commonly used for chemotherapy. Bone marrow harvested from mice transplanted with PGK-MGMT-transduced cells showed extensive in vitro BCNU resistance. Moreover, MGMT expression in mouse bone marrow conferred in vivo resistance to BCNU-induced pancytopenia and significantly reduced BCNU-induced mortality due to bone marrow hypoplasia. These data demonstrate that increased DNA alkylation repair in primitive hematopoietic stem cells confers multilineage protection from the myelosuppressive effects of BCNU and suggest a possible approach to protecting cancer patients from CNU chemotherapy-related toxicity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)206-210
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 9 1996



  • Chloroethylnitrosourea
  • DNA repair
  • O-methylguanine DNA methyltransferase
  • Retroviral vector

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General
  • Genetics

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