Lawsone derivatives target the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway in multidrug-resistant acute lymphoblastic leukemia cells

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Multidrug resistance (MDR) represents a serious problem in cancer treatment. One strategy to overcome this obstacle is to identify agents that are selectively lethal to MDR cells. The aim of this study was to discover novel compounds against MDR leukemia and to determine the molecular mechanisms behind collateral sensitivity. A library of 1162 compounds was tested against parental, drug-sensitive CCRF-CEM cells using the resazurin assay. A total of 302 compounds showed reasonable activity (less than 50% cell viability). Eleven out of 30 lawsone derivatives revealed considerable collateral sensitivity in MDR P-glycoprotein (Pgp)-overexpressing CEM/ADR5000 cells. They reduced β-catenin activity in a Wnt/β-catenin reporter cell line. Their activities significantly correlated with apolar desolvation (R = 0.819). Compound (1) (3-hydroxy-1,4-dioxo-N-phenyl-naphthalene-2-carboxamide) was the most active compound and dose-dependently down-regulated protein expression of β-catenin, c-MYC, Pgp and Frizzled 7. By molecular docking, we predicted that compound (1) bound to the palmitoyl-binding groove of the cysteine-rich domain of Frizzled-7 and Frizzled-8. Compound (1) neither stimulated ATPase activity of Pgp nor reactive oxygen species generation, both of which have been previously described as possible mechanisms of collateral sensitivity. Instead, we found that Wnt/β-catenin signaling was selectively inhibited in CEM/ADR5000 cells, but not in CCRF-CEM cells. In conclusion, we found for the first time that the inhibition of Wnt/β-catenin signaling may represent a novel molecular mechanism of collateral sensitivity in MDR cells. Wnt/β-catenin signaling, therefore, represents a potential therapeutic target for the selective killing of Pgp-mediated MDR.

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