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Emerging studies have shown that nigericin, an H+, K+ and Pb2+ ionophore, has exhibited a promising anti-cancer activity in various cancers. However, its anti-cancer mechanisms have not been fully elucidated. In this review, the recent progresses on the use of nigericin in human cancers have been summarized. By exchanging H+ and K+ across cell membranes, nigericin shows promising anti-cancer activities in in vitro and in vivo as a single agent or in combination with other anti-cancer drugs through decreasing intracellular pH (pHi). The underlying mechanisms of nigericin also include the inactivation of Wnt/β-catenin signals, blockade of Androgen Receptor (AR) signaling, and activation of Stress-Activated Protein Kinase/c-Jun N-terminal Kinase (SAPK/JNK) signaling pathways. In many cancers, nigericin is proved to specifically target putative Cancer Stem Cells (CSCs), and its synergistic effects on photodynamic therapy are also reported. Other mechanisms of nigericin including influencing the mitochondrial membrane potentials, inducing an increase in drug accumulation and autophagy, controlling insulin accumulation in nuclei, and increasing the cytotoxic activity of liposome-entrapped drugs, are also discussed. Notably, the potential adverse effects such as teratogenic effects, insulin resistance and eryptosis shall not be ignored. Taken together, these reports suggest that treatment of cancer cells with nigericin may offer a novel therapeutic strategy and future potential of translation to clinics. Copyright © 2021 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Masson SAS.. All rights reserved.


Guanzhuang Gao, Fei Liu, Zhihua Xu, Daiwei Wan, Ye Han, Yuting Kuang, Qiang Wang, Qiaoming Zhi. Evidence of nigericin as a potential therapeutic candidate for cancers: A review. Biomedicine & pharmacotherapy = Biomedecine & pharmacotherapie. 2021 May;137:111262

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PMID: 33508621

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