Putative mechanisms of antitumor activity of cyano-substituted heteroaryles in HeLa cells

Invest New Drugs. 2012 Apr;30(2):450-67. doi: 10.1007/s10637-010-9571-7. Epub 2010 Nov 3.


Six recently synthesized cyano-substituted heteroaryles, which do not bind to DNA but are highly cytotoxic against the human tumor cell line HeLa, were analyzed for their antitumor mechanisms of action (MOA). They did not interfere with the expression of human papillomavirus oncogenes integrated in the HeLa cell genome, but they did induce strong G1 arrest and result in the activation of caspase-3 and apoptosis. A computational analysis was performed that compared the antiproliferative activities of our compounds in 13 different tumor cell lines with those of compounds listed in the National Cancer Institute database. The results indicate that interference with cytoskeletal function and inhibition of mitosis are the likely antitumor MOA. Furthermore, a second in silico investigation revealed that the tumor cells that are sensitive to the cyano-substituted compounds show differences in their expression of locomotion genes compared with that of insensitive cell lines, thus corroborating the involvement of the cytoskeleton. This MOA was also confirmed experimentally: the cyano-substituted heteroaryles disrupted the actin and the tubulin networks in HeLa cells and inhibited cellular migration. However, further analysis indicated that multiple MOA may exist that depend on the position of the cyano-group; while cyano-substituted naphthiophene reduced the expression of cytoskeletal proteins, cyano-substituted thieno-thiophene-carboxanilide inhibited the formation of cellular reactive oxygen species.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Caspase 3 / metabolism
  • Cell Cycle / drug effects
  • Cell Movement / drug effects
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p21 / metabolism
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p27 / metabolism
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins / metabolism
  • Cytoskeleton / drug effects
  • Cytoskeleton / metabolism
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Viral / drug effects
  • HCT116 Cells
  • HL-60 Cells
  • HT29 Cells
  • HeLa Cells
  • Heterocyclic Compounds / chemical synthesis
  • Heterocyclic Compounds / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Mitosis / drug effects
  • Papillomaviridae / genetics
  • Poly (ADP-Ribose) Polymerase-1
  • Poly(ADP-ribose) Polymerases / metabolism
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Time Factors
  • Transcription, Genetic / drug effects
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / metabolism
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / genetics
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / virology


  • CDKN1A protein, human
  • CDKN1B protein, human
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p21
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins
  • Heterocyclic Compounds
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • TP53 protein, human
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p27
  • PARP1 protein, human
  • Poly (ADP-Ribose) Polymerase-1
  • Poly(ADP-ribose) Polymerases
  • CASP3 protein, human
  • Caspase 3