IKKα has been implicated as a key regulator of oncogenesis and driver of the metastatic process; therefore is regarded as a promising therapeutic target in anticancer drug development. In spite of the progress made in the development of IKK inhibitors, no potent IKKα inhibitor(s) have been identified. Our multistep approach of molecular modeling and direct binding has led to the identification of plant flavone apigenin as a specific IKKα inhibitor. Here we report apigenin, in micro molar range, inhibits IKKα kinase activity, demonstrates anti-proliferative and anti-invasive activities in functional cell based assays and exhibits anticancer efficacy in experimental tumor model. We found that apigenin directly binds with IKKα, attenuates IKKα kinase activity and suppresses NF-ĸB/p65 activation in human prostate cancer PC-3 and 22Rv1 cells much more effectively than IKK inhibitor, PS1145. We also showed that apigenin caused cell cycle arrest similar to knockdown of IKKα in prostate cancer cells. Studies in xenograft mouse model indicate that apigenin feeding suppresses tumor growth, lowers proliferation and enhances apoptosis. These effects correlated with inhibition of p-IKKα, NF-ĸB/p65, proliferating cell nuclear antigen and increase in cleaved caspase 3 expression in a dose-dependent manner. Overall, our results suggest that inhibition of cell proliferation, invasiveness and decrease in tumor growth by apigenin are mediated by its ability to suppress IKKα and downstream targets affecting NF-ĸB signaling pathways.
Keywords: NF-ĸB signaling; apigenin; cell cycle; prostate cancer; therapeutic target.