The anti-tumor diterpene oridonin is a direct inhibitor of Nucleolin in cancer cells

Sci Rep. 2018 Nov 13;8(1):16735. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-35088-x.


The bioactive plant diterpene oridonin displays important pharmacological activities and is widely used in traditional Chinese medicine; however, its molecular mechanism of action is still incompletely described. In vitro and in vivo data have demonstrated anti-tumor activity of oridonin and its ability to interfere with several cell pathways; however, presently only the molecular chaperone HSP70 has been identified as a direct potential target of this compound. Here, using a combination of different proteomic approaches, innovative Cellular Thermal Shift Assay (CETSA) experiments, and classical biochemical methods, we demonstrate that oridonin interacts with Nucleolin, effectively modulating the activity of this multifunctional protein. The ability of oridonin to target Nucleolin and/or HSP70 could account for the bioactivity profile of this plant diterpene. Recently, Nucleolin has attracted attention as a druggable target, as its diverse functions are implicated in pathological processes such as cancer, inflammation, and viral infection. However, up to now, no small molecule as Nucleolin binders has been reported, thus our finding represents the first evidence of Nucleolin modulation by a small inhibitor.

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / metabolism
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Biological Transport
  • Diterpenes, Kaurane / metabolism
  • Diterpenes, Kaurane / pharmacology*
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Jurkat Cells
  • Nucleolin
  • Phosphoproteins / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • RNA-Binding Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Diterpenes, Kaurane
  • Phosphoproteins
  • RNA-Binding Proteins
  • oridonin