Oxidative inhibition of Hsp90 disrupts the super-chaperone complex and attenuates pancreatic adenocarcinoma in vitro and in vivo

Int J Cancer. 2013 Feb 1;132(3):695-706. doi: 10.1002/ijc.27687. Epub 2012 Jul 9.


Pancreatic cancer is almost always fatal, in part because of its delayed diagnosis, poor prognosis, rapid progression and chemoresistance. Oncogenic proteins are stabilized by the Hsp90, making it a potential therapeutic target. We investigated the oxidative stress-mediated dysfunction of Hsp90 and the hindrance of its chaperonic activity by a carbazole alkaloid, mahanine, as a strategic therapeutic in pancreatic cancer. Mahanine exhibited antiproliferative activity against several pancreatic cancer cell lines through apoptosis. It induced early accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) leading to thiol oxidation, aggregation and dysfunction of Hsp90 in MIAPaCa-2. N-acetyl-L-cysteine prevented mahanine-induced ROS accumulation, aggregation of Hsp90, degradation of client proteins and cell death. Mahanine disrupted Hsp90-Cdc37 complex in MIAPaCa-2 as a consequence of ROS generation. Client proteins were restored by MG132, suggesting a possible role of ubiquitinylated protein degradation pathway. Surface plasmon resonance study demonstrated that the rate of interaction of mahanine with recombinant Hsp90 is in the range of seconds. Molecular dynamics simulation showed its weak interactions with Hsp90. However, no disruption of the Hsp90-Cdc37 complex was observed at an early time point, thus ruling out that mahanine directly disrupts the complex. It did not impede the ATP binding pocket of Hsp90. Mahanine also reduced in vitro migration and tube formation in cancer cells. Further, it inhibited orthotopic pancreatic tumor growth in nude mice. Taken together, these results provide evidence for mahanine-induced ROS-mediated destabilization of Hsp90 chaperone activity resulting in Hsp90-Cdc37 disruption leading to apoptosis, suggesting its potential as a specific target in pancreatic cancer.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcysteine / pharmacology
  • Adenocarcinoma / drug therapy
  • Adenocarcinoma / metabolism*
  • Adenocarcinoma / pathology
  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism
  • Alkaloids / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Carbazoles / pharmacology*
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Movement / drug effects
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Chaperonins / metabolism*
  • HSP90 Heat-Shock Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • HSP90 Heat-Shock Proteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Leupeptins / pharmacology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Sulfhydryl Compounds / metabolism


  • Alkaloids
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • CDC37 protein, human
  • Carbazoles
  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • HSP90 Heat-Shock Proteins
  • Leupeptins
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Sulfhydryl Compounds
  • mahanine
  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • Chaperonins
  • benzyloxycarbonylleucyl-leucyl-leucine aldehyde
  • Acetylcysteine