DNA repair inhibition by UVA photoactivated fluoroquinolones and vemurafenib


Cutaneous photosensitization is a common side effect of drug treatment and can be associated with an increased skin cancer risk. The immunosuppressant azathioprine, the fluoroquinolone antibiotics and vemurafenib-a BRAF inhibitor used to treat metastatic melanoma-are all recognized clinical photosensitizers. We have compared the effects of UVA radiation on cultured human cells treated with 6-thioguanine (6-TG, a DNA-embedded azathioprine surrogate), the fluoroquinolones ciprofloxacin and ofloxacin and vemurafenib. Despite widely different structures and modes of action, each of these drugs potentiated UVA cytotoxicity. UVA photoactivation of 6-TG, ciprofloxacin and ofloxacin was associated with the generation of singlet oxygen that caused extensive protein oxidation. In particular, these treatments were associated with damage to DNA repair proteins that reduced the efficiency of nucleotide excision repair. Although vemurafenib was also highly phototoxic to cultured cells, its effects were less dependent on singlet oxygen. Highly toxic combinations of vemurafenib and UVA caused little protein carbonylation but were nevertheless inhibitory to nucleotide excision repair. Thus, for three different classes of drugs, photosensitization by at least two distinct mechanisms is associated with reduced protection against potentially mutagenic and carcinogenic DNA damage.

Journal details

Volume 42
Issue number 22
Pages 13714-13722
Publication date


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