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The aberrant activation of a signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) restrains type I interferon (IFN) α/β-induced antiviral responses and is associated with the development of cancer. Designing specific STAT3 inhibitors will thus provide new options for use as IFN therapy. Herein, we identified a novel small molecule, dimethyl 2-(4-(2-(methyl(phenyl(p-tolyl)methyl)amino)ethoxy)benzyl)malonate (CIB-6), which can inhibit the IFN-α-induced interferon stimulated response element (ISRE) luciferase reporter (IC50 value = 6.4 μM) and potentiate the antiproliferative effect of IFN-α in human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) cells. CIB-6 was found to bind to the STAT3 Src homology 2 (SH2) domain, thereby selectively inhibiting STAT3 phosphorylation without affecting Janus kinases and STAT1/2. CIB-6 also inhibited the migration and invasion of HCC cells by inhibiting the epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) process. Mechanistically, CIB-6 reduced the expression of β-catenin (an EMT key protein) via upregulating β-transducin repeat-containing protein (β-TrCP) and curbed nuclear factor kappa-B (NF-κB) activation through restricting the phosphorylation of the inhibitor of NF-κB (IκB) kinase (IKK) via STAT3 inhibition. Treatment with CIB-6 significantly retarded tumor growth in nude mice with SK-HEP-1 xenografts. In addition, clinical sample analysis revealed that lower β-TrCP and higher β-catenin expression could affect the median survival time of HCC patients. Our findings suggest that CIB-6 could be a new therapeutic strategy for HCC therapy through STAT3-mediated β-TrCP/β-catenin/NF-κB axis.


Ting Peng, Orawan Wonganan, Zhonghui Zhang, Jialing Yu, Ruiying Xi, Yu Cao, Apichart Suksamrarn, Guolin Zhang, Fei Wang. A 2-Benzylmalonate Derivative as STAT3 Inhibitor Suppresses Tumor Growth in Hepatocellular Carcinoma by Upregulating β-TrCP E3 Ubiquitin Ligase. International journal of molecular sciences. 2021 Mar 25;22(7)

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PMID: 33805945

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