Research Papers:

Neutral metalloaminopeptidases APN and MetAP2 as newly discovered anticancer molecular targets of actinomycin D and its simple analogs

Ewelina Węglarz-Tomczak _, Michał Talma, Mirosław Giurg, Hans V. Westerhoff, Robert Janowski and Artur Mucha

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Oncotarget. 2018; 9:29365-29378. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.25532

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Ewelina Węglarz-Tomczak1,2, Michał Talma1, Mirosław Giurg3, Hans V. Westerhoff2, Robert Janowski4 and Artur Mucha1

1Department of Bioorganic Chemistry, Faculty of Chemistry, Wrocław University of Science and Technology, Wrocław, Poland

2Synthetic Systems Biology and Nuclear Organization, Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences, Faculty of Science, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

3Department of Organic Chemistry, Faculty of Chemistry, Wrocław University of Science and Technology, Wrocław, Poland

4Institute of Structural Biology, Helmholtz Zentrum München-German Research Center for Environmental Health, Neuherberg, Germany

Correspondence to:

Ewelina Węglarz-Tomczak, email: [email protected]

Keywords: metalloaminopeptidases; cancer; actinomycin D; phenoxazones; biological activity

Received: November 11, 2017    Accepted: May 14, 2018    Published: June 29, 2018


The potent transcription inhibitor Actinomycin D is used with several cancers. Here, we report the discovery that this naturally occurring antibiotic inhibits two human neutral aminopeptidases, the cell-surface alanine aminopeptidase and intracellular methionine aminopeptidase type 2. These metallo-containing exopeptidases participate in tumor cell expansion and motility and are targets for anticancer therapies. We show that the peptide portions of Actinomycin D and Actinomycin X2 are not required for effective inhibition, but the loss of these regions changes the mechanism of interaction. Two structurally less complex Actinomycin D analogs containing the phenoxazone chromophores, Questiomycin A and Actinocin, appear to be competitive inhibitors of both aminopeptidases, with potencies similar to the non-competitive macrocyclic parent compound (Ki in the micromolar range). The mode of action for all four compounds and both enzymes was demonstrated by molecular modeling and docking in the corresponding active sites. This knowledge gives new perspectives to Actinomycin D’s action on tumors and suggests new avenues and molecules for medical applications.

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