Perylene and coronene derivatives binding to G-rich promoter oncogene sequences efficiently reduce their expression in cancer cells

Emanuela Micheli, Alessandro Altieri, Lorenzo Cianni, Chiara Cingolani, Sara Iachettini, Armandodoriano Bianco, Carlo Leonetti, Stefano Cacchione, Annamaria Biroccio, Marco Franceschin, Angela Rizzo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A novel approach to cancer therapeutics is emerging in the field of G-quadruplex (G4) ligands, small molecules designed to stabilize four-stranded structures that can form at telomeres as well as in other genomic sequences, including oncogene promoter sequences, 5′-UTR regions and introns. In this study, we investigated the binding activity of perylene and coronene derivatives PPL3C, CORON and EMICORON to G4 structures formed within the promoter regions of two important cancer-related genes, c-MYC and BCL-2, and their biochemical effects on gene and protein expression. In order to fully characterize the ability of the selected ligands to bind and stabilize the G4 structures originated by the c-MYC and BCL-2 promoter sequences, we performed electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (ESI-MS), Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET) measurements, Circular Dichroism (CD) spectra and polymerase stop assay. Altogether our results showed that the ligands had a high capacity in binding and stabilizing the G4 structures within the c-MYC and BCL-2 promoter sequences in vitro. Notably, when we evaluated by quantitative real-time PCR and western blotting analysis, the effects of treatment with the different G4 ligands on c-MYC and BCL2 expression in a human melanoma cell line, EMICORON appeared the most effective compound in reducing the mRNA and protein levels of both genes. These results encourage to consider EMICORON as a promising example of multimodal class of an antineoplastic drug, affecting different tumor crucial pathways simultaneously: telomere maintenance (as previously described), cell proliferation and apoptosis via down-regulation of both c-MYC and BCL-2 (this paper).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)223-231
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1 2016


  • Binding affinity
  • G-quadruplex
  • Oncogene promoters

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry


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