Anti-cancer analogues ME-143 and ME-344 exert toxicity by directly inhibiting mitochondrial NADH: Ubiquinone oxidoreductase (Complex I)

Sze Chern Lim, Kirstyn Tamara Carey, Matthew McKenzie

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    40 Citations (Scopus)


    Isoflavonoids have been shown to inhibit tumor proliferation and metastasis by activating cell death pathways. As such, they have been widely studied as potential therapies for cancer prevention. The second generation synthetic isoflavan analogues ME-143 and ME-344 also exhibit anti-cancer effects, however their specific molecular targets have not been completely defined. To identify these targets, we examined the effects of ME-143 and ME-344 on cellular metabolism and found that they are potent inhibitors of mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) complex I (NADH: ubiquinone oxidoreductase) activity. In isolated HEK293T mitochondria, ME-143 and ME-344 reduced complex I activity to 14.3% and 28.6% of control values respectively. In addition to the inhibition of complex I, ME-344 also significantly inhibited mitochondrial complex III (ubiquinol: ferricytochrome-c oxidoreductase) activity by 10.8%. This inhibition of complex I activity (and to a lesser extent complex III activity) was associated with a reduction in mitochondrial oxygen consumption. In permeabilized HEK293T cells, ME-143 and ME-344 significantly reduced the maximum ADP-stimulated respiration rate to 62.3% and 70.0% of control levels respectively in the presence of complex I-linked substrates. Conversely, complex II-linked respiration was unaffected by either drug. We also observed that the inhibition of complex I-linked respiration caused the dissipation of the mitochondrial membrane potential (ΔΨm). Blue native (BN-PAGE) analysis revealed that prolonged loss of ΔΨm results in the destabilization of the native OXPHOS complexes. In particular, treatment of 143B osteosarcoma, HeLa and HEK293T human embryonic kidney cells with ME-344 for 4 h resulted in reduced steady-state levels of mature complex I. Degradation of the complex I subunit NDUFA9, as well as the complex IV (ferrocytochrome c: oxygen oxidoreductase) subunit COXIV, was also evident. The identification of OXPHOS complex I as a target of ME-143 and ME-344 advances our understanding of how these drugs induce cell death by disrupting mitochondrial metabolism, and will direct future work to maximize the anti-cancer capacity of these and other isoflavone-based compounds.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)689-701
    Number of pages13
    JournalAmerican Journal of Cancer Research
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


    • Anti-cancer
    • Complex I
    • Isoflavonoids
    • Mitochondria
    • Oxidative phosphorylation

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