Demonstration of a potent RET transcriptional inhibitor for the treatment of medullary thyroid carcinoma based on an ellipticine derivative

Vishnu Muthuraj Kumarasamy, Daekyu Sun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Dominant-activating mutations in the RET (rearranged during transfection) proto-oncogene, which encodes a receptor tyrosine kinase, is often associated with the development of medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC). The proximal promoter region of the RET gene consists of a guanine-rich sequence containing five runs of three consecutive guanine residues that serve as the binding site for transcriptional factors. As we have recently shown, this stretch of nucleotides in the promoter region is highly dynamic in nature and tend to form non-B DNA secondary structures called G-quadruplexes, which suppress the transcription of the RET gene. In the present study, ellipticine and its derivatives were identified as excellent RET G-quadruplex stabilizing agents. Circular dichroism (CD) spectroscopic studies revealed that the incorporation of a piperidine ring in an ellipticine derivative, NSC311153 improves its binding with the G-quadruplex structure and the stability induced by this compound is more potent than ellipticine. Furthermore, this compound also interfered with the transcriptional mechanism of the RET gene in an MTC derived cell line, TT cells and significantly decreased the endogenous RET protein expression. We demonstrated the specificity of NSC311153 by using papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC) cells, the TPC1 cell line which lacks the G-quadruplex forming sequence in the promoter region due to chromosomal rearrangement. The RET downregulation selectively suppresses cell proliferation by inhibiting the intracellular Raf/MEK/ERK and PI3K/Akt/mTOR signaling pathways in the TT cells. In the present study, we also showed that the systemic administration of a water soluble NSC311153 analog in a mouse MTC xenograft model inhibited the tumor growth through RET downregulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)145-157
Number of pages13
JournalInternational journal of oncology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2017


  • Ellipticine
  • G-quadruplex
  • Medullary thyroid carcinoma
  • RET

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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