Procaspase-3 activation as an anti-cancer strategy: Structure-activity relationship of procaspase-activating compound 1 (PAC-1) and its cellular co-localization with caspase-3

Quinn Peterson, Danny C. Hsu, David R. Goode, Chris J. Novotny, Ryan K. Totten, Paul J. Hergenrother

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

106 Scopus citations


A goal of personalized medicine as applied to oncology is to identify compounds that exploit a defined molecular defect in a cancerous cell. A compound called procaspase-activating compound 1 (PAC-1) was reported that enhances the activity of procaspase-3 in vitro and induces apoptotic death in cancer cells in culture and inmouse xenograft models. Experimental evidence indicates that PAC-1 activates procaspase-3 in vitro through chelation of inhibitory zinc ions. Described herein is the synthesis and biological activity of a family of PAC-1 derivativeswhere key functional groups have been systematically altered. Analysis of these compounds reveals a strong correlation between the in vitro procaspase-3 activating effect and their ability to induce death in cancer cells in culture. Importantly, we also show that a fluorescently labeled version of PAC-1 co-localizes with sites of caspase-3 activity in cancer cells. The data presented herein further bolster the hypothesis that PAC-1 induces apoptosis in cancer cells through the direct activation of procaspase-3, has implications for the design and discovery of next-generation procaspase-3 activating compounds, and sheds light on the anti-apoptotic role of cellular zinc.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5721-5731
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Medicinal Chemistry
Issue number18
StatePublished - Sep 24 2009
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Drug Discovery

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