Successful Targeting of the Warburg Effect in Prostate Cancer by Glucose-Conjugated 1,4-Naphthoquinones


Treatment of castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC) remains challenging due to the development of drug resistance. The Warburg effect describes the ability of cancer cells to consume larger amounts of glucose compared to normal tissues. We identified derivatives of natural 1,4-naphthoquinones to be active in CRPC and further synthetically modified them via glucose conjugation to increase selectivity by Warburg effect targeting. Mechanisms of action were examined by quantitative proteomics followed by bioinformatical analysis and target validation. Four synthesized molecules revealed the highest selectivity towards human CRPC cells, which correlated with higher GLUT-1 activity and expression. The compounds were able to induce pro-apoptotic signs and to inhibit the pro-survival processes and mechanisms of drug resistance (i.e., AR-signaling and autophagy). Proteome analysis suggested a disruption of the mitochondria/oxidative phosphorylation, which was validated by further functional analysis: thus, mitochondria depolarization, elevated levels of cytotoxic ROS, an increase of Bax/Bcl-2 ratio as well as release of mitochondrial AIF and cytochrome C to cytoplasm were observed. In conclusion, glucose-conjugated 1,4-naphthoquinones show potent activity and selectivity in human CRPC exerted via mitochondrial targeting. The compounds can overcome drug resistance against current standard therapies and suppress pro-survival mechanisms. This unique combination of properties makes them new promising candidates for the treatment of CRPC.

Bibliographical data

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 30.10.2019
PubMed 31671612