Sertaconazole nitrate targets IDO1 and regulates the MAPK signaling pathway to induce autophagy and apoptosis in CRC cells

Eur J Pharmacol. 2023 Mar 5:942:175515. doi: 10.1016/j.ejphar.2023.175515. Epub 2023 Jan 18.


Colorectal cancer (CRC) has become the third most frequently occurring malignant tumor worldwide. It is vital to identify novel, effective targeted treatments while considering side effects and drug resistance in the clinic. Recently, the tryptophan-metabolizing enzyme indole-2, 3-dioxygenase 1 (IDO1) has been widely reported to be overexpressed in CRC, indicating that blocking IDO1 with small-molecule inhibitors may be a promising approach to CRC treatment. In this study, the antifungal drug sertaconazole nitrate (STZ) was repurposed and showed antitumor activity, and therefore, its anticancer effect was further investigated in CRC cells. The SwissTargetPrediction analysis indicated that STZ binding to IDO1 was significantly and highly probable, and STZ was found to downregulate IDO1 in CRC cells in a dose-dependent manner. STZ exhibited considerable antiproliferative activity and induced apoptosis and autophagy in HCT116 and RKO cells. Moreover, based on an RNA-seq analysis, STZ was shown to regulate signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) and the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling pathways. We discovered that STZ suppressed tumor growth in an HCT116 nude mouse xenograft tumor model without causing evident cytotoxicity. In conclusion, our results reveal that STZ induces antitumor effects in CRC by inhibiting IDO1-modulated autophagy and apoptosis, providing a clue for repurposing STZ as a novel and potentially effective candidate medication for the future treatment of CRC.

Keywords: Apoptosis; Autophagy; Colorectal cancer; IDO1; Sertaconazole nitrate.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Autophagy
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Colorectal Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction


  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases
  • sertaconazole
  • IDO1 protein, human