Document Type


Publication Date



Myocardial toxicity and drug resistance caused by drug efflux are major limitations of doxorubicin (Dox)-based chemotherapy. Dox structure modification could be used to develop conjugates with an improved biological profile, such as antiproliferative activity and higher cellular retention. Thus, Dox thiol conjugates, Dox thiol (Dox-SH), thiol-reactive Dox-SS-pyridine (SS = disulfide), and a Dox-SS-cell-penetrating cyclic peptide, Dox-SS-[C(WR)4K], were synthesized. Dox was reacted with Traut's reagent to generate Dox-SH. The thiol group was activated by the reaction with dithiodipyridine to afford the corresponding Dox-SS-Pyridine (Dox-SS-Pyr). A cyclic cell-penetrating peptide containing a cysteine residue [C(WR)4K] was prepared using Fmoc solid-phase strategy. Dox-SS-Py was reacted with the free sulfhydryl of cysteine in [C(WR)4K] to generate Dox-SS-[C(WR)4K] as a Dox-cyclic peptide conjugate. Cytotoxicity of the compounds was examined in human embryonic kidney (HEK-293), human ovarian cancer (SKOV-3), human fibrosarcoma (HT-1080), and human leukemia (CCRF-CEM) cells. Dox-SH and Dox-SS-pyridine were found to have significantly higher or comparable cytotoxicity when compared to Dox in HEK-293, HT-1080, and CCRF-CEM cells after 24 h and 72 incubation, presumably because of higher activity and retention of the compounds in these cells. Furthermore, Dox-SS-[C(WR)4K] showed significantly higher cytotoxic activity in HEK-293, HT-1080, and SKOV-3 cells when compared with Dox after 72 h incubation. Dox-SS-Pyr exhibited higher cellular uptake than Dox-SS-[C(WR)4K] in HT-1080 and HEK-293 cells as shown by flow cytometry. Fluorescence microscopy exhibited that Dox-SS-Pyr, Dox-SH, and Dox-SS-[C(WR)4K] localized in the nucleus as shown in four cell lines, HT-1080, SKOV-3, MDA-MB-468, and MCF-7. Of note, Dox-SS-[C(WR)4K] was significantly less toxic in mouse myoblast cells compared to Dox at the same concentration. Further mechanistic study demonstrated that the level of intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) in myoblast cells exposed to Dox-SS-[C(WR)4K] was reduced in comparison of Dox when co-treated with FeCl2. These data indicate that Dox-SH, Dox-SS-Pyr, and Dox-SS-[C(WR)4K] have the potential to be further examined as Dox alternatives and anticancer agents.


NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in European Journal of Medicinal Chemistry. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in European Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, volume 161, in 2018.

The Creative Commons license below applies only to this version of the article.



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.