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Autophagy. 2013 Dec;9(12):2087-102. doi: 10.4161/auto.26506. Epub 2013 Oct 8.

The antimalarial amodiaquine causes autophagic-lysosomal and proliferative blockade sensitizing human melanoma cells to starvation- and chemotherapy-induced cell death.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology; College of Pharmacy and Arizona Cancer Center; University of Arizona; Tucson, AZ USA.


Pharmacological inhibition of autophagic-lysosomal function has recently emerged as a promising strategy for chemotherapeutic intervention targeting cancer cells. Repurposing approved and abandoned non-oncological drugs is an alternative approach to the identification and development of anticancer therapeutics, and antimalarials that target autophagic-lysosomal functions have recently attracted considerable attention as candidates for oncological repurposing. Since cumulative research suggests that dependence on autophagy represents a specific vulnerability of malignant melanoma cells, we screened a focused compound library of antimalarials for antimelanoma activity. Here we report for the first time that amodiaquine (AQ), a clinical 4-aminoquinoline antimalarial with unexplored cancer-directed chemotherapeutic potential, causes autophagic-lysosomal and proliferative blockade in melanoma cells that surpasses that of its parent compound chloroquine. Monitoring an established set of protein markers (LAMP1, LC3-II, SQSTM1) and cell ultrastructural changes detected by electron microscopy, we observed that AQ treatment caused autophagic-lysosomal blockade in malignant A375 melanoma cells, a finding substantiated by detection of rapid inactivation of lysosomal cathepsins (CTSB, CTSL, CTSD). AQ-treatment was associated with early induction of energy crisis (ATP depletion) and sensitized melanoma cells to either starvation- or chemotherapeutic agent-induced cell death. AQ displayed potent antiproliferative effects, and gene expression array analysis revealed changes at the mRNA (CDKN1A, E2F1) and protein level (TP53, CDKN1A, CCND1, phospho-RB1 [Ser 780]/[Ser 807/811], E2F1) consistent with the observed proliferative blockade in S-phase. Taken together, our data suggest that the clinical antimalarial AQ is a promising candidate for repurposing efforts that aim at targeting autophagic-lysosomal function and proliferative control in malignant melanoma cells.


CDKN1A; E2F1; amodiaquine; autophagy; cathepsin; chloroquine; lysosome; malignant melanoma

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