Mimosine is a cell-specific antagonist of folate metabolism. Academic Article uri icon


  • Iron deficiency and iron chelators are known to alter folate metabolism in mammals, but the underlying biochemical mechanisms have not been established. Although many studies have demonstrated that the iron chelators mimosine and deferoxamine inhibit DNA replication in mammalian cells, their mechanism of action remains controversial. The effects of mimosine on folate metabolism were investigated in human MCF-7 cells and SH-SY5Y neuroblastoma. Our findings indicate that mimosine is a folate antagonist and that its effects are cell-specific. MCF-7 cells cultured in the presence of 350 microm mimosine were growth-arrested, whereas mimosine had no effect on SH-SY5Y cell proliferation. Mimosine altered the distribution of folate cofactor forms in MCF-7 cells, indicating that mimosine targets folate metabolism. However, mimosine does not influence folate metabolism in SH-SY5Y neuroblastoma. The effect of mimosine on folate metabolism is associated with decreased cytoplasmic serine hydroxymethyltransferase (cSHMT) expression in MCF-7 cells but not in SH-SY5Y cells. MCF-7 cells exposed to mimosine for 24 h have a 95% reduction in cSHMT protein, and cSHMT promoter activity is reduced over 95%. Transcription of the cSHMT gene is also inhibited by deferoxamine in MCF-7 cells, indicating that mimosine inhibits cSHMT transcription by chelating iron. Analyses of mimosine-resistant MCF-7 cell lines demonstrate that although the effect of mimosine on cell cycle is independent of its effects on cSHMT expression, it inhibits both processes through a common regulatory mechanism.

published proceedings

  • J Biol Chem

author list (cited authors)

  • Oppenheim, E. W., Nasrallah, I. M., Mastri, M. G., & Stover, P. J.

citation count

  • 38

complete list of authors

  • Oppenheim, EW||Nasrallah, IM||Mastri, MG||Stover, PJ

publication date

  • June 2000