Single amino acid (arginine) deprivation: rapid and selective death of cultured transformed and malignant cells

L Scott, J Lamb, S Smith, D N Wheatley

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    150 Citations (Scopus)


    The effects of arginine deprivation (-Arg) has been examined in 26 cell lines. Less than 10% of those with transformed or malignant phenotype survived for > 5 days, and many died more rapidly, notably leukaemic cells. Bivariate flow cytometry confirmed that vulnerable cell lines failed to move out of cell cycle into a quiescent state (GO), but reinitiated DNA synthesis. Many cells remained in S-phase, and/or had difficulty progressing through to G2 and M. Two tumour lines proved relatively 'resistant', A549 and MCF7. Although considerable cell loss occurred initially, both lines showed a 'cell cycle freeze', in which cells survived for > 10 days. These cells recovered their proliferative activity in +Arg medium, but behaved in the same manner to a second -Arg episode as they did to the first episode. In contrast, normal cells entered GO and survived in -Arg medium for several weeks, with the majority of cells recovering with predictable kinetics in +Arg medium. In general, cells from a wide range of tumours and established lines die quickly in vitro following -Arg treatment, because of defective cell cycle checkpoint stringency, the efficacy of the treatment being most clearly demonstrated in co-cultures in which only the normal cells survived. The findings demonstrate a potentially simple, effective and non-genotoxic strategy for the treatment of a wide range of cancers. (C) 2000 Cancer Research Campaign.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)800-810
    Number of pages11
    JournalBritish Journal of Cancer
    Publication statusPublished - 2000


    • arginine
    • growth
    • death
    • malignant cells
    • normal cells
    • GROWTH
    • CANCER
    • TUMOR


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