9-Aminoacridine-based anticancer drugs target the PI3K/AKT/mTOR, NF-kappaB and p53 pathways

Oncogene. 2009 Feb 26;28(8):1151-61. doi: 10.1038/onc.2008.460. Epub 2009 Jan 12.


Acquisition of a transformed phenotype involves deregulation of several signal transduction pathways contributing to unconstrained cell growth. Understanding the interplay of different cancer-related signaling pathways is important for development of efficacious multitargeted anticancer drugs. The small molecule 9-aminoacridine (9AA) and its derivative, the antimalaria drug quinacrine, have selective toxicity for tumor cells and can simultaneously suppress nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB) and activate p53 signaling. To investigate the mechanism underlying these drug activities, we used a combination of two-dimensional protein separation by gel electrophoresis and mass spectrometry to identify proteins whose expression is altered in tumor cells by 9AA treatment. We found that 9AA treatment results in selective downregulation of a specific catalytic subunit of the phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) family, p110 gamma. Further exploration of this observation demonstrated that the mechanism of action of 9AA involves inhibition of the prosurvival AKT/mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway that lies downstream of PI3K. p110 gamma translation appears to be regulated by mTOR and feeds back to further modulate mTOR and AKT, thereby impacting the p53 and NF-kappaB pathways as well. These results reveal functional interplay among the PI3K/AKT/mTOR, p53 and NF-kappaB pathways that are frequently deregulated in cancer and suggest that their simultaneous targeting by a single small molecule such as 9AA could result in efficacious and selective killing of transformed cells.

MeSH terms

  • Aminacrine / chemistry
  • Aminacrine / pharmacology*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / chemistry
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Colony-Forming Units Assay
  • Electrophoresis, Gel, Two-Dimensional
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Humans
  • Immunoprecipitation
  • NF-kappa B / genetics
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / metabolism
  • Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • Proteomics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects*
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption-Ionization
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Transfection
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / metabolism


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • NF-kappa B
  • RNA, Messenger
  • TP53 protein, human
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53
  • Aminacrine
  • Protein Kinases
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases
  • MTOR protein, human
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt