Quinacrine has anticancer activity in breast cancer cells through inhibition of topoisomerase activity

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The small molecule Quinacrine (QC, a derivative of 9-aminoacridine), an anti-malaria drug, displays activity against cancer cell lines and can simultaneously suppress nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) and activate p53 signaling. In this study, we investigated the anticancer mechanism underlying these drug activities in breast cancer cell lines. QC caused a dose-dependent decrease of both anchorage dependent and independent growth of breast cancer cells (MCF-7 and MDA-MB-231) without affecting normal breast epithelial cells (MCF-10A), as evident from clonogenic cell survival, [3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2yl-)-2,5-diphenyl tetrazolium bromide] viability, wound healing and soft agar growth. QC activated the proapoptotic marker Bax, PARP cleavage, p53 and its downstream target, p21 (Cip1/Waf1) and downregulated the antiapoptotic marker Bcl-xL and relative luciferase activity of NF-κB in MCF-7 cells. Results of DAPI nuclear staining and FACS analysis show that QC increased apoptosis in a dose-dependent manner. QC caused apoptosis by increasing the cell population in S-phase and simultaneously decreasing the G1 and G2/M populations. A dose-dependent increase of DNA damage as measured by the comet assay was seen in MCF-7 cells after exposure to QC. With regards to the mechanism of DNA damage, we found that QC inhibited topoisomerase activity in MCF-7 cells by increasing the unwinding of supercoiled DNA. Collectively, the results demonstrate that QC has efficient anticancer potential against breast cancer cells via not only an induction of p53 and p21 but also an induction of S phase arrest, DNA damage and inhibition of topoisomerase activity.

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