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J Natl Cancer Inst. 2007 Jun 20;99(12):949-61. Epub 2007 Jun 12.

Structural basis for depletion of heat shock protein 90 client proteins by deguelin.

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  • 1Department of Thoracic/Head and Neck Medical Oncology, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, 1515 Holcombe Blvd, Houston, TX 77030, USA.



The molecular chaperone heat shock protein 90 (Hsp90) participates in preserving the expression and activity of various oncoproteins, including hypoxia-inducible factor 1alpha (HIF-1alpha) and Akt. Deguelin is a rotenoid with antitumor activities. We investigated whether the antitumor activities of deguelin involve the functional inhibition of Hsp90.


Human xenograft tumors were generated in mice from H1299 (n = 6 per group) and A549 (n = 4 per group) non-small-cell lung cancer cells, UMSCC38 (n = 5 per group) head and neck cancer cells, MKN45 (n = 5 per group) stomach cancer cells, and PC-3 (n = 3 per group) prostate cancer cells. Tumor-bearing mice were treated with deguelin at 4 or 8 mg/kg or with vehicle (as a control) twice a day by oral gavage for 15-28 days. Protein expression was assessed by western blot analysis. Akt and Hsp90 were assessed by use of adenoviral vectors expressing constitutively active Akt or Hsp90. Binding of deguelin to Hsp90 was examined by docking analysis and by competition binding experiments with ATP-Sepharose beads. The proteasome inhibitor MG132 was used to investigate deguelin's effect on the induction of ubiquitin-mediated proteasomal degradation of HIF-1alpha. All statistical tests were two-sided.


Deguelin bound to the ATP-binding pocket of Hsp90 and disrupted Hsp90 function, leading to ubiquitin-mediated degradation of HIF-1alpha. Administration of deguelin to xenograft-bearing mice statistically significantly decreased tumor growth by inducing apoptosis and decreasing the expression of Hsp90 client proteins, without detectable toxic effects. For example, at 15 days after the start of deguelin treatment, the volume of untreated control H1299 xenograft tumors was 798 mm3 and that of xenograft tumors treated with deguelin at 4 mg/kg was 115.9 mm3 (difference = 682.1 mm3, 95% confidence interval = 480.4 to 883.9 mm3; P<.001).


The antitumor activities of deguelin appear to involve its binding to the ATP-binding pocket of Hsp90, which suppresses Hsp90 function.

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