Isopentyl-Deoxynboquinone Induces Mitochondrial Dysfunction and G2/M Phase Cell Cycle Arrest to Selectively Kill NQO1-Positive Pancreatic Cancer Cells

Lingxiang Jiang, Yingchun Liu, Soumya Tumbath, Matthew W. Boudreau, Lindsay E. Chatkewitz, Jiangwei Wang, Xiaolin Su, Kashif Rafiq Zahid, Katherine Li, Yaomin Chen, Kai Yang, Paul J. Hergenrother, Xiumei Huang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aims: Pancreatic cancer is among the top five leading causes of cancer-related deaths worldwide, with poor overall survival rates. Current therapies for pancreatic cancer lack tumor specificity, resulting in harmful effects on normal tissues. Therefore, developing tumor-specific agents for the treatment of pancreatic cancer is critical. NAD(P)H:quinone oxidoreductase 1 (NQO1), highly expressed in pancreatic cancers but not in associated normal tissues, makes NQO1 bioactivatable drugs a potential therapy for selectively killing NQO1-positive cancer cells. Our previous studies have revealed that the novel NQO1 bioactivatable drug deoxynyboquinone (DNQ) is 10-fold more potent than the prototypic NQO1 bioactivatable drug b-lapachone in killing of NQO1-positive cancer cells. However, DNQ treatment results in high-grade methemoglobinemia, a significant side effect that limits clinical development. Results: Here, we report for the first time on a DNQ derivative, isopentyl-deoxynboquinone (IP-DNQ), which selectively kills pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) cells in an NQO1-dependent manner with equal potency to the parent DNQ. IP-DNQ evokes massive reactive oxygen species (ROS) production and oxidative DNA lesions that result in poly(ADP-ribose)polymerase-1 (PARP1) hyperactivation, mitochondrial catastrophe, and G2/M phase cell cycle arrest, leading to apoptotic and necrotic programmed cell death. Importantly, IP-DNQ treatment causes only mild methemoglobinemia in vivo, with a threefold improvement in the maximum tolerated dose (MTD) compared with DNQ, while it significantly suppresses tumor growth and extends the life span of mice in subcutaneous and orthotopic pancreatic cancer xenograft models. Innovation and Conclusion: Our study demonstrates that IP-DNQ is a promising therapy for NQO1-positive pancreatic cancers and may enhance the efficacy of other anticancer drugs. IP-DNQ represents a novel approach to treating pancreatic cancer with the potential to improve patient outcomes. Antioxid. Redox Signal. 00, 000-000.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAntioxidants and Redox Signaling
StateAccepted/In press - 2024


  • DNA damage
  • NAD/ATP loss
  • NQO1
  • PARP1 hyperactivation
  • ROS formation
  • apoptosis
  • mitochondrial dysfunction
  • programmed necrosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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