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Keywords:

  • anticancer;
  • shikonin derivatives;
  • thiophene carboxylic acids;
  • indol carboxylic acids

A series of shikonin derivatives (113) that were acylated selectively by various thiophene or indol carboxylic acids at the side chain of shikonin were synthesized, and their biological activities were also evaluated as potential tubulin inhibitors. Among them, compound 3 ((R)-1-(5,8-dihydroxy-1,4-dioxo-1,4-dihydronaphthalen-2-yl)-4-methylpent-3-enyl 3-(1H-indol-3-yl)propanoate) and compound 8 ((R)-1-(5,8-dihydroxy-1,4-dioxo-1,4-dihydronaphthalen-2-yl)-4-methylpent-3-enyl 2-(thiophen-3-yl)acetate) exhibited good antiproliferative activity of A875 (IC50 = 0.005 ± 0.001 μm, 0.009  ± 0.002 μm) and HeLa (IC50 = 11.84 ± 0.64 μm, 4.62  ± 0.31 μm) cancer cell lines in vitro, respectively. Shikonin (IC50 = 0.46 ± 0.002 μm, 4.80 ± 0.48 μm) and colchicine (IC50 = 0.75 ± 0.05 μm, 17.79 ± 0.76 μm) were used as references. Meanwhile, they also showed the most potent growth inhibitory activity against tubulin (IC50 of 3.96  ± 0.13 μm and 3.05 ± 0.30 μm, respectively), which were compared with shikonin (IC50 =  15.20 ± 0.25 μm) and colchicine (IC50 = 3.50 ± 0.35 μm). Furthermore, from the results of flow cytometer, we found compound 3 can really inhibit HeLa cell proliferation and has low cell toxicity. Based on the preliminary results, compound 3 with potent inhibitory activity in tumor growth may be a potential anticancer agent.