Investigational New Drugs

, Volume 29, Issue 5, pp 873-882

First online:

Intercalative pyrimido[4′,5′:4,5]thieno(2,3-b)quinolines induce apoptosis in leukemic cells: a comparative study of methoxy and morpholino substitution

  • M. S. ShahabuddinAffiliated withDepartment of Biochemistry, Indian Institute of Science
  • , Mridula NambiarAffiliated withDepartment of Biochemistry, Indian Institute of Science
  • , Gopal M. AdviraoAffiliated withDepartment of Biochemistry, Kuvempu University
  • , Sathees C. RaghavanAffiliated withDepartment of Biochemistry, Indian Institute of Science Email author 

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DNA intercalating molecules are promising anticancer agents. Polycyclic aromatic molecules such as ellipticine intercalate into double-stranded DNA and affect major physiological functions. In the present study, we have characterized two molecules with the same chemical backbone but different side chains, namely 8-methoxy pyrimido[4′,5′:4,5]thieno (2,3-b)quinoline-4(3H)-one (MPTQ) and 4-morpholino pyrimido[4′,5′:4,5]thieno(2,3-b)quinoline (morpho-PTQ) at the 8th and 4th position, respectively. Although both MPTQ and morpho-PTQ show similar biophysical properties with high DNA affinity, here we show that they differ in their biological activities. We find that MPTQ is many fold more potent than morpho-PTQ and is cytotoxic against different leukemic cell lines. IC50 value of methoxy PTQ was estimated between 2–15 µM among the leukemic cells studied, while it was more than 200 µM when morpho-PTQ was used. Cell cycle analysis shows an increase in sub-G1 phase, without any particular cell cycle arrest. Annexin V staining in conjunction with comet assay and DNA fragmentation suggest that MPTQ induces cytotoxicity by activating apoptosis. Thus the observed low IC50 value of MPTQ makes it a promising cancer chemotherapeutic agent.


Chemotherapy Double-strand breaks Cytotoxicity DNA damage Anticancer drug