Eighteen configurational isomers of the antimitotic peptide dolastatin 10 (Bai et al., Biochem Pharmacol 39: 1941-1949, 1990) derived from Dolabella auricularia, together with segments obtained as precursors in its synthesis (Pettit et al., J Am Chem Soc 111: 5463-5465, 1989), were examined as inhibitors of tubulin polymerization and as inhibitors of growth of L1210 murine leukemia cells in culture. Dolastatin 10 consists of four amino acids (in order from the amino terminus: dolavaline, valine, dolaisoleuine, and dolaproine), three unique to D. auricularia, linked to an unusual primary amine (dolaphenine, probably derived from phenylalanine) at what would otherwise be its carboxyl terminus. Dolastatin 10 has nine asymmetric carbon atoms, and available isomers included alternate configurations at five positions (positions 9 and 10 in the dolaproine moiety and positions 18, 19 and 19a in the dolaisoleuine moiety). For tubulin polymerization, only alterations at positions 18 and 19 resulted in loss of inhibitory activity of the isomer. In addition, a tripeptide containing dolavaline, valine and dolaisoleuine with all asymmetric carbons identical conflgurationally to those in dolastatin 10 was found to be about 30% as effective as dolastatin 10 in inhibiting tubulin polymerization. Cytotoxic effects were much more sensitive to alterations in the dolastatin 10 structure. The only modification which did not lead to reduced cytotoxicity was reversal of configuration at position 19a in the dolaisoleuine moiety. Both this isomer and dolastatin 10 had IC50 values of less than 1 nM. Several other isomers had IC50 values with the L1210 cells in the range of 30-90 nM, but these did not correlate well with their inhibitory effects on tubulin polymerization. The tripeptide effective as an inhibitor of tubulin polymerization had no activity against the L1210 cells.
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