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Abnormalities in glycosphingolipid (GSL) biosynthesis have been implicated in the oncogenesis and malignancy of brain tumours. GSLs comprise the gangliosides and the neutral GSLs and are major components of the cell surface glycocalyx. N -butyldeoxynojirimycin (N B-DNJ) is an imino sugar that inhibits the glucosyltransferase catalysing the first step in GSL biosynthesis. The influence of N B-DNJ was studied on the growth and ganglioside composition of two 20-methylcholanthrene-induced experimental mouse brain tumours, EPEN and CT-2A, which were grown in vitro and in vivo. N B-DNJ (200 microM) inhibited the proliferation of the EPEN and CT-2A cells by 50%, but did not reduce cell viability. The drug, administered in the diet (2400 mg kg(-1)) to adult syngeneic C57BL/6 mice, reduced the growth and ganglioside content of subcutaneous and intracerebral EPEN and CT-2A tumours by at least 50% compared to the untreated controls. N B-DNJ treatment also shifted the relative distribution of tumour gangliosides in accordance with the depletion of metabolic substrates. Side effects of N B-DNJ treatment were generally mild and included reductions in body and spleen weights and intestinal distension. We conclude that N B-DNJ may inhibit tumour growth through an effect on ganglioside biosynthesis and may be useful as a new chemotherapy for brain tumours.

Original publication




Journal article


Br J Cancer

Publication Date





1107 - 1114


1-Deoxynojirimycin, Animals, Body Weight, Brain, Brain Neoplasms, Cell Count, Cell Division, Gangliosides, Intestines, Liver, Male, Methylcholanthrene, Mice, Mice, Inbred C57BL, Time Factors, Tissue Distribution, Tumor Cells, Cultured