We report the design, synthesis, and biological evaluation of 13 new and 1 known anthraquinone derivatives which exerted cytotoxicity against PC3, A549 and NTUB1 cell lines. The results indicate that, among these 14, compounds-1 and 14 showed the highest growth inhibitory effect on NTUB1 and PC3 cells, respectively. Compound-1 at lower doses targets DNA, induces DNA damage and subsequently triggers G2/M arrest and apoptotic cell death at 24 h. Previously we reported that 14 induced PC3 cell autophagy and in treated PC3 cells, cleaved caspase-3 and cleaved PARP, and survivin did not increase and increase, respectively. The autophagic and necrotic cell deaths mediated by 14-triggered ROS generation. Our study is the first to investigate the biological mechanism of 14 action in detail. We find that when 14 was co-administrated with Bafilomycin A1 (BAF) in PC3 cells, rapid necrotic cell death occurred with no cleaved caspase-3 and cleaved PARP activation and increasing the expression of survivin. We further show that necrotic signaling in these cells coincided with production of reactive oxygen species. In the present study, we developed methods to synthesize five new 14 analogues for studing the structure-activity relationships. This study could provide valuable sight to find new antitumor agents for cancer therapy.
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