Mechanisms of cell death induced by arginase and asparaginase in precursor B-cell lymphoblasts.
Arginase has therapeutic potential as a cytotoxic agent in some cancers, but this is unclear for precursor B acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (pre-B ALL), the commonest form of childhood leukaemia. We compared arginase cytotoxicity with asparaginase, currently used in pre-B ALL treatment, and characterised the forms of cell death induced in a pre-B ALL cell line 697. Arginase and asparaginase both efficiently killed 697 cells and mature B lymphoma cell line Ramos, but neither enzyme killed normal lymphocytes. Arginase depleted cellular arginine, and arginase-treated media induced cell death, blocked by addition of arginine or arginine-precursor citrulline. Asparaginase depleted both asparagine and glutamine, and asparaginase-treated media induced cell death, blocked by asparagine, but not glutamine. Both enzymes induced caspase cleavage and activation, chromatin condensation and phosphatidylserine exposure, indicating apoptosis. Both arginase- and asparaginase-induced death were blocked by caspase inhibitors, but with different sensitivities. BCL-2 overexpression inhibited arginase- and asparaginase-induced cell death, but did not prevent arginase-induced cytostasis, indicating a different mechanism of growth arrest. An autophagy inhibitor, chloroquine, had no effect on the cell death induced by arginase, but doubled the cell death induced by asparaginase. In conclusion, arginase causes death of lymphoblasts by arginine-depletion induced apoptosis, via mechanism distinct from asparaginase. Therapeutic implications for childhood ALL include: arginase might be used as treatment (but antagonised by dietary arginine and citrulline), chloroquine may enhance efficacy of asparaginase treatment, and partial resistance to arginase and asparaginase may develop by BCL-2 expression. Arginase or asparaginase might potentially be used to treat Burkitt lymphoma.