6-MOMIPP, a novel brain-penetrant anti-mitotic indolyl-chalcone, inhibits glioblastoma growth and viability

Cancer Chemother Pharmacol. 2019 Feb;83(2):237-254. doi: 10.1007/s00280-018-3726-1. Epub 2018 Nov 13.


Purpose: 3-(6-Methoxy-2-methyl-1H-indol-3-yl)-1-(4-pyridinyl)-2-propene-1-one (6-MOMIPP) is a novel indole-based chalcone that disrupts microtubules. The present study aims to define the mechanism through which 6-MOMIPP induces cell death and to evaluate the efficacy of the compound in penetrating the blood-brain barrier and inhibiting growth of glioblastoma xenografts.

Methods: The effects of 6-MOMIPP were evaluated in cultured U251 glioblastoma cells, using viability, flow cytometry, and tubulin polymerization assays. Scintillation proximity and tubulin crosslinking methods were used to identify the binding site of 6-MOMIPP on tubulin, and western blots were performed to define the signaling pathways that contribute to cell death. LC/MS assays were used to study the pharmacokinetic behavior of 6-MOMIPP in mice. Subcutaneous and intracerebral xenograft models were utilized to assess the effects of 6-MOMIPP on growth of U251 glioblastoma in vivo.

Results: The findings indicate that 6-MOMIPP targets the colchicine site on β-tubulin. At concentrations ≥ 250 nm, 6-MOMIPP induces mitotic arrest, caspase activation and loss of cell viability. Cells are protected by caspase inhibitors, pointing to an apoptotic mechanism of cell death. Loss of cell viability is preceded by activation of Cdk1(Cdc2) and phosphorylation of Bcl-2 and Bcl-xL. Inhibition of both events with a Cdk1 inhibitor prevents cell death. 6-MOMIPP has broad activity against the viability of multiple glioblastoma, melanoma and lung carcinoma cell lines. Viability of normal cells, including differentiated neurons, is not significantly affected at a drug concentration (1 µM) that reduces viability in most cancer lines. Pharmacokinetic studies in mice show that concentrations of 6-MOMIPP in the brain mirror those in the plasma, indicating that 6-MOMIPP readily penetrates the blood-brain barrier. Studies with mice bearing human U251 glioblastoma xenografts demonstrate that 6-MOMIPP is effective in suppressing growth of subcutaneous and intracerebral tumors without causing general toxicity.

Conclusions: The results indicate that 6-MOMIPP is a novel microtubule disruptor that targets the colchicine binding site on β-tubulin to induce mitotic arrest and cell death. The ability of 6-MOMIPP to penetrate the blood-brain barrier and inhibit growth of glioblastoma xenografts suggests that it warrants further preclinical evaluation as potential small-molecule therapeutic that may have advantages in treating primary and metastatic brain tumors.

Keywords: Anti-mitotic; Apoptosis; Cell death; Chalcone; Glioblastoma; Microtubules.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Brain Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Brain Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Brain Neoplasms / pathology
  • Cell Cycle / drug effects
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects*
  • Female
  • Glioblastoma / drug therapy*
  • Glioblastoma / metabolism
  • Glioblastoma / pathology
  • Humans
  • Indoles / pharmacokinetics
  • Indoles / pharmacology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • Mitosis*
  • Pyridines / pharmacokinetics
  • Pyridines / pharmacology*
  • Tissue Distribution
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays


  • 3-(5-methoxy-2-methyl-1H-indol-3-yl)-1-(4-pyridinyl)-2-propen-1-one
  • Indoles
  • Pyridines