Exploring quercetin and luteolin derivatives as antiangiogenic agents

Eur J Med Chem. 2015 Jun 5;97:259-74. doi: 10.1016/j.ejmech.2015.04.056. Epub 2015 Apr 29.


The formation of new blood vessels from the pre-existing vasculature (angiogenesis) is a crucial stage in cancer progression and, indeed, angiogenesis inhibitors are now used as anticancer agents, clinically. Here we have explored the potential of flavonoid derivatives as antiangiogenic agents. Specifically, we have synthesised methoxy and 4-thio derivatives of the natural flavones quercetin and luteolin, two of which (4-thio quercetin and 4-thio luteolin) had never been previously reported. Seven of these compounds showed significant (p < 0.05) antiangiogenic activity in an in vitro scratch assay. Their activity ranged from an 86% inhibition of the vascular endothelium growth factor (VEGF)-stimulated migration (observed for methoxyquercetin at 10 μM and for luteolin at 1 μM) to a 36% inhibition (for thiomethoxy quercetin at 10 μM). Western blotting studies showed that most (4 out of 7) compounds inhibited phosphorylation of the VEGF receptor-2 (VEGFR2), suggesting that the antiangiogenic activity was due to an interference with the VEGF/VEGFR2 pathway. Molecular modelling studies looking at the affinity of our compounds towards VEGFR and/or VEGF confirmed this hypothesis, and indeed the compound with the highest antiangiogenic activity (methoxyquercetin) showed the highest affinity towards VEGFR and VEGF. As reports from others have suggested that structurally similar compounds can elicit biological responses via a non-specific, promiscuous membrane perturbation, potential interactions of the active compounds with a model lipid bilayer were assessed via DSC. Luteolin and its derivatives did not perturb the model membrane even at concentrations 10 times higher than the biologically active concentration and only subtle interactions were observed for quercetin and its derivatives. Finally, cytotoxicity assessment of these flavonoid derivatives against MCF-7 breast cancer cells demonstrated also a direct anticancer activity albeit at generally higher concentrations than those required for an antiangiogenic effect (10 fold higher for the methoxy analogues). Taken together these results show promise for flavonoid derivatives as antiangiogenic agents.

Keywords: Angiogenesis; Antiangiogenic therapy; Flavones; Luteolin; Quercetin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors / chemistry*
  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Blotting, Western
  • Breast Neoplasms / blood supply
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Cell Movement / drug effects*
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Female
  • Human Umbilical Vein Endothelial Cells / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Luteolin / chemistry*
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / metabolism
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / prevention & control*
  • Phosphorylation / drug effects
  • Quercetin / chemistry*
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / metabolism
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Receptor-2 / metabolism
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays


  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A
  • Quercetin
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Receptor-2
  • Luteolin