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PLoS One. 2012;7(10):e46546. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0046546. Epub 2012 Oct 3.

A series of beta-carboline derivatives inhibit the kinase activity of PLKs.

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  • 1Institute of Medicinal Biotechnology, Peking Union Medical College & Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, Beijing, People's Republic of China.


Polo-like kinases play an essential role in the ordered execution of mitotic events and 4 mammalian PLK family members have been identified. Accumulating evidence indicates that PLK1 is an attractive target for anticancer drugs. In this paper, a series of beta-carboline derivatives were synthesized and three compounds, DH281, DH285 and DH287, were identified as potent new PLK inhibitors. We employed various biochemical and cellular approaches to determine the effects of these compounds on the activity of PLK1 and other mitotic kinases and on cell cycle progression. We found that these three compounds could selectively inhibit the kinase activity of purified PLK1, PLK2 and PLK3 in vitro. They show strong antitumor activity against a number of cancer cell lines with relatively low micromolar IC(50)s, but are relatively less toxic to non-cancer cells (MRC5). Moreover, these compounds could induce obvious accumulation of HeLa cells in G(2)/M and S phases and trigger apoptosis. Although MRC5 cells show clear S-phase arrest after treatment with these compounds, the G2/M arrest and apoptosis are less insignificant, indicating the distinct sensitivity between normal and cancer cells. We also found that HeLa cells treated with these drugs exhibit monopolar spindles and increased Wee1 protein levels, the characteristics of cells treated with PLK1 inhibitors. Together, these results demonstrate that DH281, DH285 and DH287 beta-carboline compounds are new PLK inhibitors with potential for cancer treatment.

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