Targeting epigenetic changes in gene expression in cancer cells may offer new strategies for the development of selective cancer therapies. In the present study, we investigated coumestrol, a natural compound exhibiting broad anti-cancer effects against skin melanoma, lung cancer and colon cancer cell growth. Haspin kinase was identified as a direct target protein of coumestrol using kinase profiling analysis. Histone H3 is a direct substrate of haspin kinase. We observed haspin kinase overexpression as well as greater phosphorylation of histone H3 at threonine 3 (Thr-3) in the cancer cells compared to normal cells. Computer modeling using the Schrödinger Suite program identified the binding interface within the ATP binding site. These findings suggest that the anti-cancer effect of coumestrol is due to the direct targeting of haspin kinase. Coumestrol has considerable potential for further development as a novel anti-cancer agent.
Keywords: cancer; coumestrol; haspin kinase; histone H3.