Hydroxyurea is used to treat a variety of cancers and sickle cell disease. Despite this widespread use, a complete mechanistic understanding of the beneficial actions of this compound remains to be understood. Hydroxyurea inhibits ribonucleotide reductase and increases the levels of fetal hemoglobin, which explains a portion of the effects of this drug. Administration of hydroxyurea to patients results in a significant increase in levels of iron nitrosyl hemoglobin, nitrite and nitrate suggesting the in vivo metabolism of hydroxyurea to nitric oxide. Formation of nitric oxide from hydroxyurea may explain a portion of the observed effects of hydroxyurea treatment. At the present, the mechanism or mechanisms of nitric oxide release, the identity of the in vivo oxidant and the site of metabolism remain to be identified. Chemical oxidation of hydroxyurea produces nitric oxide and nitroxyl, the one-electron reduced form of nitric oxide. These oxidative pathways generally proceed through the nitroxide radical (2) or C-nitrosoformamide (3). Biological oxidants, including both iron and copper containing enzymes and proteins, also convert hydroxyurea to nitric oxide or its decomposition products in vitro and these reactions also occur through these intermediates. A number of other reactions of hydroxyurea including the reaction with ribonucleotide reductase and irradiation demonstrate the potential to release nitric oxide and should be further investigated. Gaining an understanding of the metabolism of hydroxyurea to nitric oxide will provide valuable information towards the treatment of these disorders and may lead to the development of better therapeutic agents.
Keywords: hydroxyurea, nitric oxide, free radicals, c-nitroso compounds, sickle cell disease, cancer, oxidation, heme proteins
Rights & PermissionsPrintExport