• apoptosis;
  • confocal microscopy;
  • molecular docking;
  • shikonin derivatives;
  • tubulin

In this study, we report the identification of a new shikonin-phenoxyacetic acid derivative, as an inhibitor of tubulin. A series of compounds were prepared; among them, compound 16 [(R) -1 - (5, 8- dihydroxy-1, 4- dioxo-1, 4- dihydronaphthalen-2-yl)-4-methylpent-3-enyl 2- (4- phenoxyphenyl) acetate] potently inhibited the function of microtubules, inducing cell growth inhibition, apoptosis of cancer cell lines in a concentration and time-dependent manner. Molecular docking involving 16 at the vinblastine binding site of tubulin indicated that a phenoxy moiety interacted with tubulin via hydrogen bonding with asparaginate (Asn) and tyrosine (Tyr). Analysis of microtubules with confocal microscopy demonstrated that 16 altered the microtubule architecture and exhibited a significant reduction in microtubule density. Cell cycle assay further proved that HepG2 cells were blocked in G2/M phase. Our study provides a new, promising compound for the development of tubulin inhibitors by proposing a new target for the anticancer activity of shikonin.