• anti-tumour acridinones;
  • cell death;
  • CYP3A4 inhibition;
  • HepG2 cells;
  • senescence


There is increasing evidence that the expression level of drug metabolic enzymes affects the final cellular response following drug treatment. Moreover, anti-tumour agents may modulate enzymatic activity and/or cellular expression of metabolic enzymes in tumour cells. We have investigated the influence of CYP3A4 overexpression on the cellular response induced by the anti-tumour agent C-1311 in hepatoma cells. C-1311-mediated CYP3A4 activity modulation and the effect of CYP3A4 overexpression on C-1311 metabolism have also been examined. With the HepG2 cell line and its CYP3A4-overexpressing variant, Hep3A4, experiments involving DAPI staining, cell cycle analysis, phosphatidylserine externalisation and senescence-associated (SA)-β-galactosidase expression, were used to monitor the effects of C-1311 exposure. C-1311 cellular metabolism and CYP3A4 activity were investigated by high-performance liquid chromatography. C-1311 metabolism was very low in both hepatoma cell lines and slightly influenced by CYP3A4 expression. Interestingly, in HepG2 cells, C-1311 was an effective modulator of CYP3A4 enzymatic activity, being the inhibitor of this isoenzyme in Hep3A4 cells. Cell cycle analysis showed that HepG2 cells underwent a rather stable G2/M arrest following C-1311 exposure, whereas CYP3A4-overexpressing cells accumulated only slightly in this compartment. C-1311-treated cells died by apoptosis and necrosis, whereas surviving cells underwent senescence; however, these effects occurred faster and more intensely in Hep3A4 cells. Although CYP3A4 did not influence C-1311 metabolism, changes in CYP3A4 levels affected the C-1311-induced response in hepatoma cells. Therefore, inter-patient differences in CYP3A4 levels should be considered when assessing the potential therapeutic effects of C-1311.