Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Pharmacology & Toxicology

First Advisor

Richard Moran


A targeted approach to the development of antifolate therapies has been sought for many years. Central to the success of such development is an understanding of the molecular mechanisms dictating the sensitivity of cells to antifolates and the fundamental differences of these processes between normal and neoplastic phenotypes. This dissertation addressed transcriptional mechanisms and cell-signaling events responsible for the efficacy of antifolate therapies. Transcriptional processes and cell signaling pathways are often aberrant in neoplastic tissues, providing a potential point of distinction between a normal and neoplastic cellular state. Folylpolyglutamate synthetase (FPGS) catalyzes the formation of poly-γ-glutamate derivatives of folates and antifolates, which permits intracellular retention and accumulation of these compounds. The mouse fpgs gene uses two distant promoters to produce functionally distinct isozymes in a tissue-specific pattern. We questioned how the two promoters were differentially controlled. An analysis of DNA methylation and histone post-translational modifications across the length of the mouse fpgs gene showed that epigenetic mechanisms contributed to the tissue-specific control of the upstream (P1), but not the downstream (P2) fpgs promoter. RNAPII complexes and general transcription factors were present over P1 only when P1 was transcribed, but these components were present over P2 in most tissues, and promoter-proximal pausing was evident in brain. Clear promoter occlusion was found over P2 in liver. These studies concluded that tissue-specific coordination of dual promoters required multiple interacting controls. The mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) controls protein translation initiation, and is central to a cell-signaling pathway rich in tumor suppressor and oncogenic proteins. mTOR dysregulation is a common feature of several human cancers and inhibition of this protein has been sought as an ideal cancer drug target. We have determined that antifolates inhibiting the two folate-dependent steps of purine synthesis (GART or AICART) activate AMP-dependent protein kinase (AMPK) and inhibit mTOR. The mechanism of AMPK stimulation appears to be mediated by either nucleotide depletion (GART inhibitors), or ZMP accumulation (AICART inhibitors). These studies discovered a new mechanism for antifolates that surprisingly defines them as molecularly targeted therapeutics.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

August 2009