Syrosingopine sensitizes cancer cells to killing by metformin

Sci Adv. 2016 Dec 23;2(12):e1601756. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.1601756. eCollection 2016 Dec.


We report that the anticancer activity of the widely used diabetic drug metformin is strongly potentiated by syrosingopine. Synthetic lethality elicited by combining the two drugs is synergistic and specific to transformed cells. This effect is unrelated to syrosingopine's known role as an inhibitor of the vesicular monoamine transporters. Syrosingopine binds to the glycolytic enzyme α-enolase in vitro, and the expression of the γ-enolase isoform correlates with nonresponsiveness to the drug combination. Syrosingopine sensitized cancer cells to metformin and its more potent derivative phenformin far below the individual toxic threshold of each compound. Thus, combining syrosingopine and codrugs is a promising therapeutic strategy for clinical application for the treatment of cancer.

Keywords: Cancer; Mitochondria; biguanide; metabolism; metformin; synthetic lethality; syrosingopine.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Drug Synergism
  • Glycolysis
  • Humans
  • Metformin / pharmacology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Phenformin / pharmacology
  • Phosphopyruvate Hydratase / chemistry
  • Reserpine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Reserpine / pharmacology


  • Reserpine
  • Metformin
  • Phenformin
  • Phosphopyruvate Hydratase
  • syrosingopine