Selective non-nucleoside inhibitors of human DNA methyltransferases active in cancer including in cancer stem cells

Sergio Valente, Yiwei Liu, Michael Schnekenburger, Clemens Zwergel, Sandro Cosconati, Christina Gros, Maria Tardugno, Donatella Labella, Cristina Florean, Steven Minden, Hideharu Hashimoto, Yanqi Chang, Xing Zhang, Gilbert Kirsch, Ettore Novellino, Paola B. Arimondo, Evelina Miele, Elisabetta Ferretti, Alberto Gulino, Marc DiederichXiaodong Cheng, Antonello Mai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


DNA methyltransferases (DNMTs) are important enzymes involved in epigenetic control of gene expression and represent valuable targets in cancer chemotherapy. A number of nucleoside DNMT inhibitors (DNMTi) have been studied in cancer, including in cancer stem cells, and two of them (azacytidine and decitabine) have been approved for treatment of myelodysplastic syndromes. However, only a few non-nucleoside DNMTi have been identified so far, and even fewer have been validated in cancer. Through a process of hit-to-lead optimization, we report here the discovery of compound 5 as a potent non-nucleoside DNMTi that is also selective toward other AdoMet-dependent protein methyltransferases. Compound 5 was potent at single-digit micromolar concentrations against a panel of cancer cells and was less toxic in peripheral blood mononuclear cells than two other compounds tested. In mouse medulloblastoma stem cells, 5 inhibited cell growth, whereas related compound 2 showed high cell differentiation. To the best of our knowledge, 2 and 5 are the first non-nucleoside DNMTi tested in a cancer stem cell line.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)701-713
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Medicinal Chemistry
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Feb 13 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Drug Discovery


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