Background: Hydroxypyrones represent several classes of molecules known for their high synthetic versatility. This family of molecules shows several interesting pharmaceutical activities and is considered as a promising source of new antineoplastic compounds.
Methods: In the quest to identify new potential anticancer agents, a new maltol (3-hydroxy-2-methyl-4-pyrone)-derived molecule, named malten (N,N'-bis((3-hydroxy-4-pyron-2-yl)methyl)-N,N'-dimethylethylendiamine), has been synthesised and analysed at both biological and molecular levels for its antiproliferative activity in eight tumour cell lines.
Results: Malten exposure led to a dose-dependent reduction in cell survival in all the neoplastic models studied. Sublethal concentrations of malten induce profound cell cycle changes, particularly affecting the S and/or G2-M phases, whereas exposure to lethal doses causes the induction of programmed cell death. The molecular response to malten was also investigated in JURKAT and U937 cells. It showed the modulation of genes having key roles in cell cycle progression and apoptosis. Finally, as part of the effort to clarify the action mechanism, we showed that malten is able to impair DNA electrophoretic mobility and drastically reduce both PCR amplificability and fragmentation susceptibility of DNA.
Conclusion: Taken together, these results show that malten may exert its antiproliferative activity through the induction of complex DNA structural modifications. This evidence, together with the high synthetic versatility of maltol-derived compounds, makes malten an interesting molecular scaffold for the future design of new potential anticancer agents.