NSC 95397, a quinone-based small molecule compound, has been identified as an inhibitor for dual-specificity phosphatases, including mitogen-activated protein kinase phosphatase-1 (MKP-1). MKP-1 is known to inactivate mitogen-activated protein kinases by dephosphorylating both of their threonine and tyrosine residues. Moreover, owing to their participation in tumorigenesis and drug resistance in colon cancer cells, MKP-1 is an attractive therapeutic target for colon cancer treatment. We therefore investigated the inhibitory activity of NSC 95397 against three colon cancer cell lines including SW480, SW620, and DLD-1, and their underlying mechanisms. The results demonstrated that NSC 95397 reduced cell viability and anchorage-independent growth of all the three colon cancer cell lines through inhibited proliferation and induced apoptosis via regulating cell-cycle-related proteins, including p21, cyclin-dependent kinases, and caspases. Besides, by using mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase (MEK)/extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) inhibitor U0126, we provided mechanistic evidence that the antineoplastic effects of NSC 95397 were achieved via inhibiting MKP-1 activity followed by ERK1/2 phosphorylation. Conclusively, our results indicated that NSC 95397 might serve as an effective therapeutic intervention for colon cancer through regulating MKP-1 and ERK1/2 pathway.
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