Identification of a small molecule that downregulates MITF expression and mediates antimelanoma activity in vitro

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Melanoma is a type of cancer arising from the melanocytes, which are the cells that make up the pigment melanin and are derived from the neural crest. There is no particularly effective therapy once the disease is metastatic, highlighting the need for discovery of novel potent agents. In this investigation, we adopted a zebrafish embryonic pigmentation model to identify antimelanoma agents by screening an in-house small molecule library. With this assay, we found that a small molecule compound, SKLB226, blocked zebrafish pigmentation and pigment cell migration. Mechanism of action studies showed that SKLB226 downregulated MITF mRNA level in both zebrafish embryos and mammalian melanoma cells. Further studies showed that it could efficiently suppress the viability and migration of mammalian melanoma cells. In summary, SKLB226 can be used as a chemical tool to study melanocyte development as well as an antimelanoma lead compound that should be subjected to further structural optimization.

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