Identification of Small Molecule Inhibitors of Human Cytochrome c Oxidase That Target Chemoresistant Glioma Cells

J Biol Chem. 2016 Nov 11;291(46):24188-24199. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M116.749978. Epub 2016 Sep 27.


The enzyme cytochrome c oxidase (CcO) or complex IV (EC is a large transmembrane protein complex that serves as the last enzyme in the respiratory electron transport chain of eukaryotic mitochondria. CcO promotes the switch from glycolytic to oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) metabolism and has been associated with increased self-renewal characteristics in gliomas. Increased CcO activity in tumors has been associated with tumor progression after chemotherapy failure, and patients with primary glioblastoma multiforme and high tumor CcO activity have worse clinical outcomes than those with low tumor CcO activity. Therefore, CcO is an attractive target for cancer therapy. We report here the characterization of a CcO inhibitor (ADDA 5) that was identified using a high throughput screening paradigm. ADDA 5 demonstrated specificity for CcO, with no inhibition of other mitochondrial complexes or other relevant enzymes, and biochemical characterization showed that this compound is a non-competitive inhibitor of cytochrome c When tested in cellular assays, ADDA 5 dose-dependently inhibited the proliferation of chemosensitive and chemoresistant glioma cells but did not display toxicity against non-cancer cells. Furthermore, treatment with ADDA 5 led to significant inhibition of tumor growth in flank xenograft mouse models. Importantly, ADDA 5 inhibited CcO activity and blocked cell proliferation and neurosphere formation in cultures of glioma stem cells, the cells implicated in tumor recurrence and resistance to therapy in patients with glioblastoma. In summary, we have identified ADDA 5 as a lead CcO inhibitor for further optimization as a novel approach for the treatment of glioblastoma and related cancers.

Keywords: chemoresistance; cytochrome c oxidase (complex IV); glioblastoma; inhibitor; metabolism; mitochondria; small molecule; stem cells.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cytochromes c / metabolism
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm / drug effects*
  • Electron Transport Complex IV / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Electron Transport Complex IV / metabolism
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Glioma* / drug therapy
  • Glioma* / enzymology
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Neoplasm Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Neoplasm Proteins / metabolism
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays


  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • Cytochromes c
  • Electron Transport Complex IV