Unnatural polyketide analogues selectively target the her signaling pathway in human breast cancer cells

Seok Joon Kwon, Moon Il Kim, Bosung Ku, Lydie Coulombel, Jin Hwan Kim, Joseph H. Shawky, Robert J. Linhardtd, Jonathan S. Dordick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Receptor tyrosine kinases are critical targets for the regulation of cell survival. Cancer patients with abnormal receptor tyrosine kinases (RTK) tend to have more aggressive disease with poor clinical outcomes. As a result, human epidermal growth factor receptor kinases, such as EGFR (HER1), HER2, and HER3, represent important therapeutic targets. Several plant polyphenols including the type III polyketide synthase products (genistein, curcumin, resveratrol, and epigallocatechin-3-galate) possess chemopreventive activity, primarily as a result of RTK inhibition. However, only a small fraction of the polyphenolic structural universe has been evaluated. Along these lines, we have developed an in vitro route to the synthesis and subsequent screening of unnatural polyketide analogues with N-acetylcysteamine (SNAc) starter substrates and malonyl-coenzyme A (CoA) and methylmalonyl-CoA as extender substrates. The resulting polyketide analogues possessed a similar structural polyketide backbone (aromatic-2-pyrone) with variable side chains. Screening chalcone synthase (CHS) reaction products against BT-474 cells resulted in identification of several trifluoromethylcinnamoyl-based polyketides that showed strong suppression of the HER2-associated PI3K/AKT signaling pathway, yet did not inhibit the growth of nontransformed MCF-10A breast cells (IC 50>100 μm). Specifically, 4-trifluoromethylcinnamoyl pyrone (compound 2e) was highly potent (IC50< 200 nm) among the test compounds toward proliferation of several breast cancer cell lines. This breadth of activity likely stems from the ability of compound 2e to inhibit the phosphorylation of HER1, HER2, and HER3. Therefore, these polyketide analogues might prove to be useful drug candidates for potential breast cancer therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)573-580
Number of pages8
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Chalcone synthase
  • Inhibitors
  • N-acetylcysteamine (SNAc) precursors
  • Polyketides
  • Tyrosine kinases


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