Inhibitors of isoprenylcysteine carboxylmethyltransferase (Icmt) are promising anti-cancer agents, as modification by Icmt is an essential component of the protein prenylation pathway for a group of proteins that includes Ras GTPases. Cysmethynil, a prototypical indole-based inhibitor of Icmt, effectively inhibits tumor cell growth. However, the physical properties of cysmethynil, such as its low aqueous solubility, make it a poor candidate for clinical development. A novel amino-derivative of cysmethynil with superior physical properties and marked improvement in efficacy, termed compound 8.12, has recently been reported. We report here that Icmt (-/-) mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) are much more resistant to compound 8.12-induced cell death than their wild-type counterparts, providing evidence that the anti-proliferative effects of this compound are mediated through an Icmt specific mechanism. Treatment of PC3 prostate and HepG2 liver cancer cells with compound 8.12 resulted in pre-lamin A accumulation and Ras delocalization from the plasma membrane, both expected outcomes from inhibition of the Icmt-catalyzed carboxylmethylation. Treatment with compound 8.12 induced cell cycle arrest, autophagy and cell death, and abolished anchorage-independent colony formation. Consistent with its greater in vitro efficacy, compound 8.12 inhibited tumor growth with greater potency than cysmethynil in a xenograft mouse model. Further, a drug combination study identified synergistic antitumor efficacy of compound 8.12 and the epithelial growth factor receptor (EGFR)-inhibitor gefitinib, possibly through enhancement of autophagy. This study establishes compound 8.12 as a pharmacological inhibitor of Icmt that is an attractive candidate for further preclinical and clinical development.
Keywords: Icmt; Ras; anti-proliferation; autophagy; compound 8.12; cysmethynil; gefitinib; synergy.