Identification of chlorprothixene as a potential drug that induces apoptosis and autophagic cell death in acute myeloid leukemia cells

Yuxin Du, Kening Li, Xiangeng Wang, Aman Chandra Kaushik, Muhammad Junaid, Dongqing Wei

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Although acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a highly heterogeneous malignance, the common molecular mechanisms shared by different AML subtypes play critical roles in AML development. It is possible to identify new drugs that are effective for various AML subtypes based on the common molecular mechanisms. Therefore, we developed a hypothesis-driven bioinformatic drug screening framework by integrating multiple omics data. In this study, we identified that chlorprothixene, a dopamine receptor antagonist, could effectively inhibit growth of AML cells from different subtypes. RNA-seq analysis suggested that chlorprothixene perturbed a series of crucial biological processes such as cell cycle, apoptosis, and autophagy in AML cells. Further investigations indicated that chlorprothixene could induce both apoptosis and autophagy in AML cells, and apoptosis and autophagy could act as partners to induce cell death cooperatively. Remarkably, chlorprothixene was found to inhibit tumor growth and induce in situ leukemic cell apoptosis in the murine xenograft model. Furthermore, chlorprothixene treatment could reduce the level of oncofusion proteins PML-RARα and AML1-ETO, thus elevate the expression of apoptosis-related genes, and lead to AML cell death. Our results provided new insights for drug repositioning of AML therapy and confirmed that chlorprothixene might be a potential candidate for treatment of different subtypes of AML by reducing expression of oncofusion proteins. Database: RNA-seq data are available in GEO database under the accession number GSE124316.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1645-1665
Number of pages21
JournalFEBS Journal
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • acute myeloid leukemia
  • apoptosis
  • autophagy
  • chlorprothixene
  • oncoprotein

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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