Plant phenolic compounds have shown the ability to cooperate with one another at low doses in producing enhanced anticancer effects. This may overcome the limitations (e.g., poor bioavailability and high-dose toxicity) in developing these agents as cancer medicines. We have previously reported that the hydroxycinnamic acid derivative (HCAD) methyl-4-hydroxycinnamate and the phenolic diterpene carnosic acid (CA) can synergistically induce massive calcium-dependent apoptosis in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) at non-cytotoxic concentrations of each agent. Here, we explored the chemical nature of the synergy between HCADs and either CA, in inducing cytotoxi-city, or the active metabolite of vitamin D (calcitriol), in enhancing the differentiation of AML cells. This was done by determining the structure–activity relationship of a series of hydroxycinnamic acids and their derivatives (methyl hydroxycinnamates and hydroxybenzylideneacetones) in combination with CA or calcitriol. The HCAD/CA synergy required the following critical structural elements of an HCAD molecule: (a) the para-hydroxyl on the phenolic ring, (b) the carbon C7–C8 double bond, and (c) the methyl-esterified carboxyl. Thus, the only HCADs capable of synergizing with CA were found to be methyl-4-hydroxycinnamate and methyl ferulate, which also most potently enhanced calcitriol-induced cell differentiation. Notably, the C7–C8 double bond was the major requirement for this HCAD/calcitriol cooperation. Our findings may contribute to the rational design of novel synergistically acting AML drugs based on prototype combinations of HCADs with other agents studied here.
- Acute myeloid leukemia
- Carnosic acid
- Structure-activity relationship
- Vitamin D
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Medicine (miscellaneous)
- General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology