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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle

A Novel Marine Natural Product Derived Pyrroloiminoquinone with Potent Activity against Skin Cancer Cells

Department of Chemistry, University of Alabama at Birmingham, 901, 14th Street S, Birmingham, AL 35294, USA
Department of Dermatology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, 1670 University Boulevard, VH 566A, P.O. Box 202, Birmingham, AL 35294, USA
Veteran Affairs Medical Center, Birmingham, AL 35294, USA
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Both authors contributed equally to this manuscript.
Mar. Drugs 2019, 17(8), 443;
Received: 5 July 2019 / Revised: 24 July 2019 / Accepted: 25 July 2019 / Published: 27 July 2019
PDF [1910 KB, uploaded 30 July 2019]


Non-melanoma skin cancer is one of the major ailments in the United States. Effective drugs that can cure skin cancers are limited. Moreover, the available drugs have toxic side effects. Therefore, skin cancer drugs with less toxic side effects are urgently needed. To achieve this goal, we focused our work on identifying potent lead compounds from marine natural products. Five lead compounds identified from a class of pyrroloiminoquinone natural products were evaluated for their ability to selectively kill squamous cell carcinoma (SCC13) skin cancer cells using an MTT assay. The toxicity of these compounds was also evaluated against the normal human keratinocyte HaCaT cell line. The most potent compound identified from these studies, C278 was further evaluated for its ability to inhibit cancer cell migration and invasion using a wound-healing assay and a trans-well migration assay, respectively. To investigate the molecular mechanism of cell death, the expression of apoptotic and autophagy proteins was studied in C278 treated cells compared to untreated cells using western blot. Our results showed that all five compounds effectively killed the SCC13 cells, with compound C278 being the most effective. Compound C278 was more effective in killing the SCC13 cells compared to HaCaT cells with a two-fold selectivity. The migration and the invasion of the SCC13 cells were also inhibited upon treatment with compound C278. The expression of pro-apoptotic and autophagy proteins with concomitant downregulation in the expression of survival proteins were observed in C278 treated cells. In summary, the marine natural product analog compound C278 showed promising anticancer activity against human skin cancer cells and holds potential to be developed as an effective anticancer agent to combat skin cancer. View Full-Text
Keywords: pyrroloiminoquinone; alkaloid; analog; skin cancer; apoptosis; SCC13; invasion; migration pyrroloiminoquinone; alkaloid; analog; skin cancer; apoptosis; SCC13; invasion; migration

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Cowan, J.; Shadab, M.; Nadkarni, D.H.; KC, K.; Velu, S.E.; Yusuf, N. A Novel Marine Natural Product Derived Pyrroloiminoquinone with Potent Activity against Skin Cancer Cells. Mar. Drugs 2019, 17, 443.

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