A new series of topsentin analogs, in which the central imidazole ring of the natural lead was replaced by a 1,2,4-oxadiazole moiety, was efficiently synthesized. All derivatives were pre-screened for antiproliferative activity against the National Cancer Institute (NCI-60) cell lines panel. The five most potent compounds were further investigated in various pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) cell lines, including SUIT-2, Capan-1, and Panc-1 cells, eliciting EC50 values in the micromolar and sub-micromolar range, associated with significant reduction of cell migration. These remarkable results might be explained by the effects of these new topsentin analogues on epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition markers, including SNAIL-1/2 and metalloproteinase-9. Moreover, flow cytometric analysis after Annexin V-FITC and propidium iodide staining demonstrated that these derivatives enhanced apoptosis of PDAC cells. Keeping with these data, the PathScan intracellular signaling and ELISA array revealed cleavage of caspase-3 and PARP and a significant inhibition of GSK3β phosphorylation, suggesting this kinase as a potential downstream target of our novel compounds. This was further supported by a specific assay for the evaluation of GSK3β activity, showing IC50 values for the most active compounds against this enzyme in the micromolar range.
Keywords: 1,2,4-oxadiazole topsentin analogs; GSK3β kinase; PDAC antiproliferative activity; inhibition of migration; proapoptotic activity.
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