Cardamonin is a natural chalcone that has been shown to exhibit high anticancer activity. In an attempt to discover analogues of cardamonin with enhanced anticancer activity, 19 analogues were synthesized and tested against A549 and HK1 cell lines. Results of the MTS cell viability assay showed that several derivatives possessed cytotoxic activities that were several-fold more potent than cardamonin. SAR analysis showed the importance of the ketone and alkene groups for bioactivity, while substituting cardamonin's phenolic groups with more polar moieties resulted in activity enhancement. As part of the SAR study and further exploration of chemical space, the effect of metal coordination on cytotoxicity was also investigated, but it was only possible to successfully obtain the Cu (II) complex of cardamonin (19). Compound 19 was the most active analogue possessing IC50 values of 13.2 μM and 0.7 μM against A549 and HK1 cells, corresponding to a 5- and 32-fold increase in activity, respectively. It was also able to significantly inhibit the migration of A549 and HK1 cells. Further mode of action studies have shown that the most active analogue, 19, induced DNA damage resulting in G2/M-phase cell- cycle arrest in both cell lines. These events further led to the induction of apoptosis by the compound via caspase-3/7 and caspase-9 activation, PARP cleavage and downregulation of Mcl-1 expression. Moreover, 19 inhibited the expression levels of p-mTOR and p-4EBP1, which indicated that it exerted its anticancer activity, at least in part, via inhibition of the mTOR signalling pathway.
- Cell-cycle arrest