Cancers are the major cause of death worldwide. Chemotherapy using cytotoxic drugs and targeted therapy is required when surgery is difficult, ineffective, or impossible. We previously synthesized the novel synthetic 1-benzylindole derivative 21-900 and found that it inhibits histone deacetylase (HDAC) activities and tubulin assembly. Here we tested its effects on the human leukaemia cell lines HL-60 and MOLT-4 in vitro and in vivo. We found that its potent cytotoxic effects were mediated through cell cycle arrest at the G2/M phase, which increased the population of sub-G1 cells, leading to apoptosis. Further, tubulin was depolymerized by 21-900 in a manner similar to that of vincristine, leading to disruption of microtubule dynamics and increased levels of the mitotic marker MPM-2. Further, 21-900 increased the expression of cleavage form of poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP), caspase 3, 7 (cleavage form), and pro-apoptotic protein BAK and decreased the expression of pro-survival BCL-2-family proteins BCL-2, MCL-1, and BID pro-form, leading to the induction of apoptosis. The growth of tumours in nude mice formed by xenografts of HL-60 and MOLT-4 cells was significantly inhibited by 21-900 without causing the mice to lose body weight. These findings indicate that 21-900 may serve as a potent anti-leukaemia drug.
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