Ciclopirox activates PERK-dependent endoplasmic reticulum stress to drive cell death in colorectal cancer

Cell Death Dis. 2020 Jul 27;11(7):582. doi: 10.1038/s41419-020-02779-1.


Ciclopirox (CPX) modulates multiple cellular pathways involved in the growth of a variety of tumor cell types. However, the effects of CPX on colorectal cancer (CRC) and the underlying mechanisms for its antitumor activity remain unclear. Herein, we report that CPX exhibited strong antitumorigenic properties in CRC by inducing cell cycle arrest, repressing cell migration, and invasion by affecting N-cadherin, Snail, E-cadherin, MMP-2, and MMP-9 expression, and disruption of cellular bioenergetics contributed to CPX-associated inhibition of cell growth, migration, and invasion. Interestingly, CPX-induced reactive oxygen species (ROS) production and impaired mitochondrial respiration, whereas the capacity of glycolysis was increased. CPX (20 mg/kg, intraperitoneally) substantially inhibited CRC xenograft growth in vivo. Mechanistic studies revealed that the antitumor activity of CPX relies on apoptosis induced by ROS-mediated endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress in both 5-FU-sensitive and -resistant CRC cells. Our data reveal a novel mechanism for CPX through the disruption of cellular bioenergetics and activating protein kinase RNA-like endoplasmic reticulum kinase (PERK)-dependent ER stress to drive cell death and overcome drug resistance in CRC, indicating that CPX could potentially be a novel chemotherapeutic for the treatment of CRC.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aerobiosis
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Cell Death / drug effects
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Movement / drug effects
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cell Respiration / drug effects
  • Ciclopirox / pharmacology*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / enzymology*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress / drug effects*
  • Glycolysis / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mitochondria / drug effects
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Models, Biological
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays
  • eIF-2 Kinase / metabolism*


  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Ciclopirox
  • PERK kinase
  • eIF-2 Kinase