The small-molecule compound AC-73 targeting CD147 inhibits leukemic cell proliferation, induces autophagy and increases the chemotherapeutic sensitivity of acute myeloid leukemia cells

Isabella Spinello, Ernestina Saulle, Maria Teresa Quaranta, Luca Pasquini, Elvira Pelosi, Germana Castelli, Tiziana Ottone, Maria Teresa Voso, Ugo Testa, Catherine Labbaye

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CD147 is a transmembrane glycoprotein with multiple functions in human healthy tissues and diseases, in particular in cancer. Overexpression of CD147 correlates with biological functions that promote tumor progression and confers resistance to chemotherapeutic drugs. In contrast to solid tumors, the role of CD147 has not been extensively studied in leukemia. Understanding whether CD147 represents a new hematological target and whether its inhibitor AC-73 may be used in leukemia therapy, may reveal an alternative treatment strategy in patients with acute myeloid leukemia. We analyzed CD147 expression and function in hematopoietic progenitor cells from normal cord blood, in several leukemic cell lines and in primary leukemic blasts obtained from patients with acute myeloid leukemia. We investigated the effects of AC-73, used alone or in combination with arabinosylcytosine (Ara-C) and arsenic trioxide (ATO), on leukemic cell proliferation. In our study, we demonstrated that CD147 overexpression promotes leukemic cell proliferation. We showed that AC-73 exhibits a potent growth inhibitory activity in leukemic cells, by inhibiting the ERK/STAT3 activation pathway and activating autophagy. We demonstrated that AC-73 exerts an anti-proliferative effect additive to chemotherapy, by enhancing leukemic cells sensitivity to Ara-C-induced cytotoxicity or to ATO-induced autophagy. We also reported CD147 expression in the fraction of leukemic blasts expressing CD371, a marker of leukemic stem cells. Altogether, our study indicates CD147 as a novel potential target in the treatment of acute myeloid leukemia and AC-73 as an anti-proliferative drug and an inducer of autophagy in leukemic cells to use in combination with chemotherapeutic agents.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Nov 22 2018


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