Targeting the KRAS oncogene: Synthesis, physicochemical and biological evaluation of novel G-Quadruplex DNA binders

Federica D'Aria, Vincenzo Maria D'Amore, Francesco Saverio Di Leva, Jussara Amato, Marco Caterino, Pasquale Russomanno, Silvia Salerno, Elisabetta Barresi, Marinella De Leo, Anna Maria Marini, Sabrina Taliani, Federico Da Settimo, Gilmar F. Salgado, Luca Pompili, Pasquale Zizza, Senji Shirasawa, Ettore Novellino, Annamaria Biroccio, Luciana Marinelli, Concetta Giancola

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The oncogene KRAS is involved in the pathogenesis of many tumors such as pancreatic, lung and colorectal cancers, thereby representing a relevant target for the treatment of these diseases. The KRAS P1 promoter contains a nuclease hypersensitive, guanine-rich sequence able to fold into a G-quadruplex motif (G4). The stabilization of this G4 structure by small molecules is emerging as a feasible approach to downregulate KRAS expression. Here, a set of novel stabilizing molecules was identified through a virtual screening campaign on the NMR structure of the 22-mer KRAS G4. The most promising hits were then submitted to structure-activity relationships studies which allowed improving their binding affinity and selectivity over double helix DNA and different G4 topologies. The best derivative (19) underwent fluorescence titration experiments and further computational studies to disclose its binding mechanism to KRAS G4. Finally, biological assays showed that this compound is capable to reduce the viability of colorectal cancer cells in which mutated KRAS acts as a driver oncogene. Thus, 19 might represent the prototype of a new class of drugs for the treatment of tumors that, expressing mutated forms of KRAS, are refractory to current therapeutic regimens.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105337
JournalEuropean Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences
Publication statusPublished - Jun 15 2020


  • Cancer
  • DNA G-quadruplex
  • Drug discovery
  • KRAS
  • Medicinal chemistry
  • Molecular modeling
  • Physicochemical studies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmaceutical Science


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