Osthole is extracted from the Chinese herbs Cnidium monnieri and Angelica pubescens, and it was found to have antitumor activity in vitro and in vivo. A series of osthole derivatives have been synthesized, and the N-hydroxycinnamide derivatives of osthole, WJ1376-1 and WJ1398-1 were found to have the greatest potential against human colon adenocarcinoma cells. In contrast to the parental osthole, both WJ1376-1 and WJ1398-1 were found to induce multinucleation and polyploidy by microscopic observation and flow cytometry. WJ1376-1 and WJ1398-1 significantly activated ataxia telangiectasia and rad3 related (ATR) kinase, which triggered activation of the checkpoint kinase 2 (Chk2) signaling pathway and then down regulated Cdc25 phosphatase and Cdc2/cyclin B kinase activities. WJ1376-1 and WJ1398-1 also inhibited the phosphorylation of Aurora A kinase, which is associated with important processes during mitosis. The presence of a "comet" DNA fragment and phosphorylation of p53 at Ser 15 clearly indicated that DNA damage occurred with WJ1376-1 and WJ1398-1 treatment. WJ1376-1 and WJ1398-1 ultimately induced apoptosis as evidenced by the upregulation of Bad and activation of caspases-3, -7, and -9. Furthermore, WJ1376-1 and WJ1398-1 also showed a great effect in attenuating tumor growth without affecting the body weight of xenograft nude mice. Taken together, these results suggest that the toxic activities of WJ1376-1 and WJ1398-1 were dissimilar to that of the parental osthole, which can induce cell polyploidy and G2/M cell cycle arrest in colon adenocarcinoma cells and may provide a potential therapeutic target for colon cancer treatment in the future.
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