Hepatocellular carcinoma is highly chemoresistant to currently available chemotherapeutic agents. In this study, 2′-fluoro-6,7-methylenedioxy-2- phenyl-4-quinolone (CHM-1), a synthetic 6,7-substituted 2-phenyl-4-quinolone, was identified as a potent and selective antitumor agent in human hepatocellular carcinoma. CHM-1 induced growth inhibition of HA22T, Hep3B, and HepG2 cells in a concentration-dependent manner but did not obviously impair the viability of normal cells at the IC50 for liver cancer cells. CHM-1-induced apoptosis was also characterized by immunofluorescence microscopy. CHM-1 interacted with tubulin at the colchicine-binding site, markedly inhibited tubulin polymerization both in vitro and in vivo, and disrupted microtubule organization. CHM-1 caused cell cycle arrest at G2-M phase by activating Cdc2/cyclin B1 complex activity. CHM-1-induced cell death, activation of Cdc2 kinase activity, and elevation of MPM2 phosphoepitopes were profoundly attenuated by roscovitine, a specific cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor. CHM-1 did not modulate the caspase cascade, and the pan-caspase-inhibitor z-VAD-fmk did not abolish CHM-1-induced cell death. However, CHM-1 induced the translocation of apoptosis-inducing factor (AIF) from mitochondria to the nucleus. Small interfering RNA targeting of AIF substantially attenuated CHM-1-induced AIF translocation. Importantly, CHM-1 inhibited tumor growth and prolonged the lifespan in mice inoculated with HA22T cells. In conclusion, we show that CHM-1 exhibits a novel antimitotic antitumor activity against human hepatocellular carcinoma both in vitro and in vivo via a caspase-independent pathway. CHM-1 is a promising chemotherapeutic agent worthy of further development into a clinical trial candidate for treating cancer, especially hepatocellular carcinoma.
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