Analogs of tetrahydroisoquinoline natural products that inhibit cell migration and target galectin-3 outside of its carbohydrate-binding site

J Biol Chem. 2008 Sep 5;283(36):24534-45. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M800006200. Epub 2008 Jun 13.


Cell migration is central to a number of normal and disease processes. Small organic molecules that inhibit cell migration have potential as both research probes and therapeutic agents. We have identified two tetrahydroisoquinoline natural product analogs with antimigratory activities on Madin-Darby canine kidney epithelial cells: a semisynthetic derivative of quinocarmycin (also known as quinocarcin), DX-52-1, and a more complex synthetic molecule, HUK-921, related to the naphthyridinomycin family. It has been assumed that the cellular effects of reactive tetrahydroisoquinolines result from the alkylation of DNA. We have reported previously that the primary target of DX-52-1 relevant to cell migration appears to be the membrane-cytoskeleton linker protein radixin. Here we extend the analysis of the protein targets of DX-52-1, reporting that the multifunctional carbohydrate-binding protein galectin-3 is a secondary target of DX-52-1 that may also be relevant to the antimigratory effects of both DX-52-1 and HUK-921. All known inhibitors of galectin-3 target its beta-galactoside-binding site in the carbohydrate recognition domain. However, we found that DX-52-1 and HUK-921 bind galectin-3 outside of its beta-galactoside-binding site. Intriguingly HUK-921, although a less potent inhibitor of cell migration than DX-52-1, had far greater selectivity for galectin-3 over radixin, exhibiting little binding to radixin, both in vitro and in cells. Overexpression of galectin-3 in cells led to a dramatic increase in cell adhesion on different extracellular matrix substrata as well as changes in cell-cell adhesion and cell motility. Galectin-3-overexpressing cells had greatly reduced sensitivity to DX-52-1 and HUK-921, and these compounds caused a change in localization of the overexpressed galectin-3 and reversion of the cells to a more normal morphology. The converse manipulation, RNA interference-based silencing of galectin-3 expression, resulted in reduced cell-matrix adhesion and cell migration. In aggregate, the data suggest that DX-52-1 and HUK-921 inhibit a carbohydrate binding-independent function of galectin-3 that is involved in cell migration.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Alkylation / drug effects
  • Animals
  • Binding Sites / physiology
  • Cell Adhesion / drug effects
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Movement / drug effects*
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins / genetics
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins / metabolism
  • DNA / metabolism
  • Dogs
  • Galectin 3 / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Galectin 3 / biosynthesis
  • Galectin 3 / genetics
  • Gene Expression
  • Humans
  • Isoquinolines / chemistry
  • Isoquinolines / pharmacology*
  • Membrane Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • RNA Interference
  • RNA, Small Interfering / genetics


  • Cytoskeletal Proteins
  • Galectin 3
  • Isoquinolines
  • Membrane Proteins
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • radixin
  • DX 52-1
  • quinocarcin
  • DNA