Excessive eIF4E phosphorylation by mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK)-interacting kinases 1 and 2 (MNK1 and MNK2; collectively, MNKs) has been associated with oncogenesis. The overexpression of eIF4E in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is related to cancer cell growth and survival. Thus, the inhibition of MNKs and eIF4E phosphorylation are potential therapeutic strategies for AML. Herein, a structure-based virtual screening approach was performed to identify potential MNK inhibitors from natural products. Three flavonoids, apigenin, hispidulin, and luteolin, showed MNK2 inhibitory activity with IC50 values of 308, 252, and 579 nM, respectively. A structure-activity relationship analysis was performed to disclose the molecular interactions. Furthermore, luteolin exhibited substantial inhibitory efficacy against MNK1 (IC50 = 179 nM). Experimental results from cellular assays showed that hispidulin and luteolin inhibited the growth of MOLM-13 and MV4-11 AML cells by downregulating eIF4E phosphorylation and arresting the cell cycle at the G0/G1 phase. Therefore, hispidulin and luteolin showed promising results as lead compounds for the potential treatment for AML.
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