Ribonucleotide reductase (RR) is an important therapeutic target for anticancer drugs. The structure of human RR features a 1:1 complex of two homodimeric subunits, hRRM1 and hRRM2. p53R2 is a newly identified homologue of hRRM2. We have devised a holoenzyme-based in vitro assay for the determination of the potency and subunit-selectivity of small-molecule inhibitors of RR. The assay was implemented using two forms of recombinant RR (hRRM2/hRRM1 and p53R2/hRRM1) and based on their [3H]CDP reduction activity. Hydroxyurea was used to standardize the assay. We found that the activities of hRRM2/hRRM1 and p53R2/hRRM1 were decreased by hydroxyurea in a dose-dependent manner. The -NH-OH segment of hydroxyurea was shown to be essential for inhibition. In the presence of Fe(III) and reductants, less inhibition of enzymatic activity by hydroxyurea was observed, especially for p53R2/hRRM1. The potency of four hydroxyurea analogues (Schiff bases of hydroxysemicarbazide, SB-HSC) decreased in the order SB-HSC 21 > SB-HSC 24 > SB-HSC 2 > hydroxyurea (HU) > SB-HSC 29. SB-HSC 2 and SB-HSC 24 inhibited p53R2/hRRM1 significantly more than hRRM2/hRRM1, whereas SB-HSC 21 and SB-HSC 29 showed low subunit-selectivity. Electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) measurements showed that inhibition of RR was accompanied by reduction of its tyrosyl radical. The method was validated by comparison with data obtained using cell-based assays. We suggest that this novel recombinant-holoenzyme-based in vitro assay is a useful tool for the discovery of more potent and subunit-selective inhibitors of RR.
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