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BMC Cancer. 2009 May 6;9:135. doi: 10.1186/1471-2407-9-135.

Identification of hematein as a novel inhibitor of protein kinase CK2 from a natural product library.

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  • 1Thoracic Oncology Laboratory, Department of Surgery, Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94115, USA.



Casein kinase 2 (CK2) is dysregulated in various human cancers and is a promising target for cancer therapy. To date, there is no small molecular CK2 inhibitor in clinical trial yet. With the aim to identify novel CK2 inhibitors, we screened a natural product library.


We adopted cell-based proliferation and CK2 kinase assays to screen CK2 inhibitors from a natural compound library. Dose-dependent response of CK2 inhibitors in vitro was determined by a radioisotope kinase assay. Western blot analysis was used to evaluate down stream Akt phosphorylation and apoptosis. Apoptosis was also evaluated by annexin-V/propidium iodide (PI) labeling method using flow cytometry. Inhibition effects of CK2 inhibitors on the growth of cancer and normal cells were evaluated by cell proliferation and viability assays.


Hematein was identified as a novel CK2 inhibitor that is highly selective among a panel of kinases. It appears to be an ATP non-competitive and partially reversible CK2 inhibitor with an IC50 value of 0.55 muM. In addition, hematein inhibited cancer cell growth partially through down-regulation of Akt phosphorylation and induced apoptosis in these cells. Furthermore, hematein exerted stronger inhibition effects on the growth of cancer cells than in normal cells.


In this study, we showed that hematein is a novel selective and cell permeable small molecule CK2 inhibitor. Hematein showed stronger growth inhibition effects to cancer cells when compared to normal cells. This compound may represent a promising class of CK2 inhibitors.

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