Assay for expression of methotrexate-resistant dihydrofolate reductase activity in the presence of drug-sensitive enzyme

Kirstin Thompson, Dani Bich Nga Vinh, R. Scott McIvor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


A simple, continuous spectrophotometric assay for dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR) activity was adapted for determination of drug-resistant enzyme activity expressed from transfected genes in cells containing drug-sensitive enzyme. Methotrexate inihibition characteristics in this assay system were assessed for the murine wild-type (WT) enzyme as well as variant genes encoding amino acid substitutions at codon positions 22 (arg22) or 31 (trp31) expressed in DHFR-deficient Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells and in mouse 3T# cells. Methotrexate concentrations were thus identified which maximized inhibition of the wild-type enzyme while maintaining substantial arg22 or trp31 activity. Mixing experiments were conducted to determine the minimum amount of drug-resistant enzyme distinguishable from a constant amount of wild-type enzyme in the presence of methotrexate. Mixtures of enzymes from a variety of sources (WT, arg22, or trp31 expressed in CHO or 3T3 cells) demonstrated a detection limit of 0.03 to 0.06 nmol/min. Assay of methotrexate-resistant arg22 DHFR appeared to be limited by the low level of activity associated with this enzyme variant, whereas assay of the trp31 variant was limited by enzyme inhibition at lower concentrations of methotrexate. The assay was thus applicable to two quite diverse DHFR variants and may be useful for assaying the expression of other drug-resistant DHFR genes as well after introduction into cells containing drug-sensitive enzyme.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)167-173
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Pharmacological and Toxicological Methods
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 1992

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors are grateful to Dr. Jon J. Jonsson for providing software that facilitated data processing and for review of the manuscript, and to Kristin Hansen for assistance in preparation of the manuscript. This work was supported by grants (to R.S.M.) from the National Cancer Institute (CA46878), the American Cancer Society (IN-13 and JFRA247), and the Leukemia Research Foundation (University of Minnesota). Portions of this article were included as part of a thesis submitted by Dani B. -N. Vinh to the University of Minnesota in partial fulfillment of requirements for the degree of Master of Science.


  • Dihydrofolate reductase
  • Enzyme assay
  • Methotrexate


Dive into the research topics of 'Assay for expression of methotrexate-resistant dihydrofolate reductase activity in the presence of drug-sensitive enzyme'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this