Pharmacological inhibition of dihydroorotate dehydrogenase induces apoptosis and differentiation in acute myeloid leukemia cells

Dang Wu, Wanyan Wang, Wuyan Chen, Fulin Lian, Li Lang, Ying Huang, Yechun Xu, Naixia Zhang, Yinbin Chen, Mingyao Liu, Ruth Nussinov, Feixiong Cheng, Weiqiang Lu, Jin Huang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Acute myeloid leukemia is a disorder characterized by abnormal differentiation of myeloid cells and a clonal proliferation derived from primitive hematopoietic stem cells. Interventions that overcome myeloid differentiation have been shown to be a promising therapeutic strategy for acute myeloid leukemia. In this study, we demonstrate that CRISPR/Cas9-mediated knockout of dihydroorotate dehydrogenase leads to apoptosis and normal differentiation of acute myeloid leukemia cells, indicating that dihydroorotate dehydrogenase is a potential differentiation regulator and a therapeutic target in acute myeloid leukemia. By screening a library of natural products, we identified a novel dihydroorotate dehydrogenase inhibitor, isobavachalcone, derived from the traditional Chinese medicine Psoralea corylifolia. Using enzymatic analysis, thermal shift assay, pull down, nuclear magnetic resonance, and isothermal titration calorimetry experiments, we demonstrate that isobavachalcone inhibits human dihydroorotate dehydrogenase directly, and triggers apoptosis and differentiation of acute myeloid leukemia cells. Oral administration of isobavachalcone suppresses subcutaneous HL60 xenograft tumor growth without obvious toxicity. Importantly, our results suggest that a combination of isobavachalcone and adriamycin prolonged survival in an intravenous HL60 leukemia model. In summary, this study demonstrates that isobavachalcone triggers apoptosis and differentiation of acute myeloid leukemia cells via pharmacological inhibition of human dihydroorotate dehydrogenase, offering a potential therapeutic strategy for acute myeloid leukemia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1472-1483
Number of pages12
JournalHaematologica
Volume103
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - 31 Aug 2018

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