Natural products discovered by using agnostic approaches, unlike rationally designed leads or those obtained through high-throughput screening, offer the ability to reveal new biological pathways and, hence, serve as an important vehicle to unveil new avenues in drug discovery. The ritterazine-cephalostatin family of natural products displays robust and potent antitumor activities, with sub-nanomolar growth inhibition against multiple cell lines and potent activity in xenograft models. Herein, we used comparative cellular and molecular biological methods to uncover the ritterazine-cephalostatin cytotoxic mode of action (MOA) in human tumor cells. Our findings indicated that, whereas ritterostatin GN 1N , a cephalostatin-ritterazine hybrid, binds to multiple HSP70s, its cellular trafficking confines activity to the endoplasmic reticulum (ER)-based HSP70 isoform, GRP78. This targeting results in activation of the unfolding protein response (UPR) and subsequent apoptotic cell death.
Keywords: GRP78; cephalostatin; drug discovery; natural products; ritterazine.
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