Pharmacology of novel small-molecule tubulin inhibitors in glioblastoma cells with enhanced EGFR signalling

Athena F. Phoa, Stephen Browne, Fadi M.S. Gurgis, Mia C. Åkerfeldt, Alexander Döbber, Christian Renn, Christian Peifer, Brett W. Stringer, Bryan W. Day, Chin Wong, Megan Chircop, Terrance G. Johns, Michael Kassiou, Lenka Munoz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


We recently reported that CMPD1, originally developed as an inhibitor of MK2 activation, primarily inhibits tubulin polymerisation and induces apoptosis in glioblastoma cells. In the present study we provide detailed pharmacological investigation of CMPD1 analogues with improved molecular properties. We determined their anti-cancer efficacy in glioblastoma cells with enhanced EGFR signalling, as deregulated EGFR often leads to chemoresistance. Eight analogues of CMPD1 with varying lipophilicity and basicity were synthesised and tested for efficacy in the cell viability assay using established glioblastoma cell lines and patient-derived primary glioblastoma cells. The mechanism of action for the most potent analogue 15 was determined using MK2 activation and tubulin polymerisation assays, together with the immunofluorescence analysis of the mitotic spindle formation. Apoptosis was analysed by Annexin V staining, imunoblotting analysis of bcl-2 proteins and PARP cleavage. The apoptotic activity of CMPD1 and analogue 15 was comparable across glioblastoma cell lines regardless of the EGFR status. Primary glioblastoma cells of the classical subtype that are characterized by enhanced EGFR activity were most sensitive to the treatment with CMPD1 and 15. In summary, we present mechanism of action for a novel small molecule tubulin inhibitor, compound 15 that inhibits tubulin polymerisation and mitotic spindle formation, induces degradation of anti-apoptotic bcl-2 proteins and leads to apoptosis of glioblastoma cells. We also demonstrate that the enhanced EGFR activity does not decrease the efficacy of tubulin inhibitors developed in this study.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)587-601
Number of pages15
JournalBiochemical Pharmacology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Apoptosis
  • CMPD1
  • Glioblastoma
  • MK2
  • Tubulin inhibitors


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