Design, synthesis and biological evaluation of anilide (dicarboxylic acid) shikonin esters as antitumor agents through targeting PI3K/Akt/mTOR signaling pathway

Yingying Ma, Xiaorong Yang, Hongwei Han, Zhongling Wen, Minkai Yang, Yahan Zhang, Jiangyan Fu, Xuan Wang, Tongming Yin, Guihua Lu, Jinliang Qi, Hongyan Lin, Xiaoming Wang, Yonghua Yang
Bioorganic Chemistry 2021 March 29, 111: 104872
Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) has an unfavorable prognosis attribute to its low differentiation, rapid proliferation and high distant metastasis rate. PI3K/Akt/mTOR as an intracellular signaling pathway plays a key role in the cell proliferation, migration, invasion, metabolism and regeneration. In this work, we designed and synthesized a series of anilide (dicarboxylic acid) shikonin esters targeting PI3K/Akt/mTOR signaling pathway, and assessed their antitumor effects. Through three rounds of screening by computer-aided drug design method (CADD), we preliminarily obtained sixteen novel anilide (dicarboxylic acid) shikonin esters and identified them as excellent compounds. CCK-8 assay results demonstrated that compound M9 exhibited better antiproliferative activities against MDA-MB-231, A549 and HeLa cell lines than shikonin (SK), especially for MDA-MB-231 (M9: IC50  = 4.52 ± 0.28 μM; SK: IC50  = 7.62 ± 0.26 μM). Moreover, the antiproliferative activity of M9 was better than that of paclitaxel. Further pharmacological studies showed that M9 could induce apoptosis of MDA-MB-231 cells and arrest the cell cycle in G2/M phase. M9 also inhibited the migration of MDA-MB-231 cells by inhibiting Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway. In addition, western blot results showed that M9 could inhibit cell proliferation and migration by down-regulating PI3K/Akt/mTOR signaling pathway. Finally, a three-dimensional quantitative structure-activity relationship (3D-QSAR) model was also constructed to provide a basis for further development of shikonin derivatives as potential antitumor drugs through structure-activity relationship analysis. To sum up, M9 could be a potential candidate for TNBC therapy.

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