Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) has an unfavorable prognosis attribute to its low differentiation, rapid proliferation and high distant metastasis rate. PI3K/Akt/mTOR as an intracellular signaling pathway plays a key role in the cell proliferation, migration, invasion, metabolism and regeneration. In this work, we designed and synthesized a series of anilide (dicarboxylic acid) shikonin esters targeting PI3K/Akt/mTOR signaling pathway, and assessed their antitumor effects. Through three rounds of screening by computer-aided drug design method (CADD), we preliminarily obtained sixteen novel anilide (dicarboxylic acid) shikonin esters and identified them as excellent compounds. CCK-8 assay results demonstrated that compound M9 exhibited better antiproliferative activities against MDA-MB-231, A549 and HeLa cell lines than shikonin (SK), especially for MDA-MB-231 (M9: IC = 4.52 ± 0.28 μM; SK: IC = 7.62 ± 0.26 μM). Moreover, the antiproliferative activity of M9 was better than that of paclitaxel. Further pharmacological studies showed that M9 could induce apoptosis of MDA-MB-231 cells and arrest the cell cycle in G2/M phase. M9 also inhibited the migration of MDA-MB-231 cells by inhibiting Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway. In addition, western blot results showed that M9 could inhibit cell proliferation and migration by down-regulating PI3K/Akt/mTOR signaling pathway. Finally, a three-dimensional quantitative structure-activity relationship (3D-QSAR) model was also constructed to provide a basis for further development of shikonin derivatives as potential antitumor drugs through structure-activity relationship analysis. To sum up, M9 could be a potential candidate for TNBC therapy.Copyright © 2021 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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