In humans, the most common epigenetic DNA modification is methylation of the 5-carbon of cytosines, predominantly in CpG dinucleotides. DNA methylation is an important epigenetic mark associated with gene repression. Disruption of the normal DNA methylation pattern is known to play a role in the initiation and progression of many cancers. DNA methyltransferase 1 (DNMT1), the most abundant DNA methyltransferase in humans, is primarily responsible for maintenance of the DNA methylation pattern and is considered an important cancer drug target. Recently, laccaic acid A (LCA), a highly substituted anthraquinone natural product, was identified as a direct, DNA-competitive inhibitor of DNMT1. Here, we have successfully screened a small library of simplified anthraquinone compounds for DNMT1 inhibition. Using an endonuclease-coupled DNA methylation assay, we identified two anthraquinone compounds, each containing an aromatic substituent, that act as direct DNMT1 inhibitors. These simplified anthraquinone compounds retain the DNA-competitive mechanism of action of LCA and exhibit some selectivity for DNMT1 over DNMT3a. The newly identified compounds are at least 40-fold less potent than LCA, but have significantly less complex structures. Collectively, this data indicates that substituted anthraquinone compounds could serve as a novel scaffold for developing DNMT1-specific inhibitors.
Switzer RL, Medrano J, Reedel DA, Weiss J (2019) Substituted anthraquinones represent a potential scaffold for DNA methyltransferase 1- specific inhibitors. PLoS ONE 14(7): e0219830.