Thiostrepton is an inducer of oxidative and proteotoxic stress that impairs viability of human melanoma cells but not primary melanocytes

Shuxi Qiao, Sarah D. Lamore, Christopher M. Cabello, Jessica L. Lesson, José L. Muñoz-Rodriguez, Georg T. Wondrak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Pharmacological induction of oxidative and proteotoxic stress has recently emerged as a promising strategy for chemotherapeutic intervention targeting cancer cells. Guided by a differential phenotypic drug screen for novel lead compounds that selectively induce melanoma cell apoptosis without compromising viability of primary human melanocytes, we have focused on the cyclic pyridinyl-polythiazolyl peptide-antimicrobial thiostrepton. Using comparative gene expression-array analysis, the early cellular stress response induced by thiostrepton was examined in human A375 metastatic melanoma cells and primary melanocytes. Thiostrepton displayed selective antimelanoma activity causing early induction of proteotoxic stress with massive upregulation of heat shock (HSPA6, HSPA1A, DNAJB4, HSPB1, HSPH1, HSPA1L, CRYAB, HSPA5, DNAJA1), oxidative stress (HMOX1, GSR, SOD1), and ER stress response (DDIT3) gene expression, confirmed by immunodetection (Hsp70, Hsp70B′, HO-1, phospho-eIF2α). Moreover, upregulation of p53, proapoptotic modulation of Bcl-2 family members (Bax, Noxa, Mcl-1, Bcl-2), and induction of apoptotic cell death were observed. Thiostrepton rapidly induced cellular oxidative stress followed by inactivation of chymotrypsin-like proteasomal activity and melanoma cell-directed accumulation of ubiquitinated proteins, not observed in melanocytes that were resistant to thiostrepton-induced apoptosis. Proteotoxic and apoptogenic effects were fully antagonized by antioxidant intervention. In RPMI 8226 multiple myeloma cells, known to be exquisitely sensitive to proteasome inhibition, early proteotoxic and apoptogenic effects of thiostrepton were confirmed by array analysis indicating pronounced upregulation of heat shock response gene expression. Our findings demonstrate that thiostrepton displays dual activity as a selective prooxidant and proteotoxic chemotherapeutic, suggesting feasibility of experimental intervention targeting metastatic melanoma and other malignancies including multiple myeloma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1229-1240
Number of pages12
JournalBiochemical Pharmacology
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 1 2012


  • Heat shock response
  • Malignant melanoma
  • Oxidative and proteotoxic stress
  • Proteasome
  • Thiostrepton

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Pharmacology


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