[an-tee-muh-tab-uh-lahyt, an-tahy-]
antimetabolite: see metabolite.

Substance that competes with, replaces, or inhibits a specific compound within a cell, whose functioning is thereby disrupted. Because its structure resembles the compound's, it is taken up by the cell, but it does not react in the same way with the enzyme that acts on the usual compound. It may inhibit the enzyme or be converted into an aberrant chemical. Many antimetabolites are useful in treating disease, including sulfa drugs, which disrupt bacterial but not human metabolism for bacterial diseases, and others (e.g., methotrexate, 5-fluorouracil) for various cancers.

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An antimetabolite is a chemical with a similar structure to a substance (a metabolite) required for normal biochemical reactions, yet different enough to interfere with the normal functions of cells, including cell division.


Cancer treatment

Antimetabolites can be used in cancer treatment, as they interfere with DNA production and therefore cell division and the growth of tumors. Because cancer cells spend more time dividing than other cells, inhibiting cell division harms tumor cells more than other cells.

Anti-metabolites masquerade as purine (azathioprine, mercaptopurine) or pyrimidine - which become the building blocks of DNA. They prevent these substances becoming incorporated in to DNA during the S phase (of the cell cycle), stopping normal development and division.

They also affect RNA synthesis. However, because thymidine is used in DNA but not in RNA (where uracil is used instead), inhibition of thymidine synthesis via thymidylate synthase selectively inhibits DNA synthesis over RNA synthesis.

Due to their efficiency, these drugs are the most widely used cytostatics.

In the ATC system, they are classified under L01B.


Antimetabolites may also be antibiotics, such as sulfanilamide drugs, which inhibit dihydrofolate synthesis in bacteria by competing with para-aminobenzoic acid.


Main representatives of these drugs are:

See also

External links


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