Krukovine suppresses KRAS-mutated lung cancer cell growth and proliferation by inhibiting the RAF-ERK pathway and inactivating AKT pathway

Huanling Lai, Yuwei Wang, Fugang Duan, Ying Li, Zebo Jiang, Lianxiang Luo, Liang Liu, Elaine L.H. Leung, Xiaojun Yao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Oncogenic activation of the KRAS gene via point mutations occurs in 20-30% of patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). The RAS-RAF-ERK and RAS-PI3K-AKT pathways are the major hyper-activated downstream pathways in RAS mutation, which promotes the unlimited lifecycle of cancer cells and their metastasis in humans. However, the success of targeted therapy is restricted by many factors. Herein, we show a new pharmacological KRAS signaling inhibitor krukovine, which is a small molecular bisbenzylisoquinoline alkaloid, isolated from the bark of Abuta grandifolia (Mart.) Sandw. (Menispermaceae). This alkaloid targets the KRAS downstream signaling pathways in different NSCLC cell lines, such as H460 and A549, which are established by KRAS mutations. In the present study, we initially investigated the anti-cancer activities of krukovine in KRAS-mutated NSCLC cell lines, as well as KRAS wild type cancer cell line and normal lung cell. Results indicated that krukovine can inhibit the growth and dose-dependently inhibit the colony formation capacity and wound healing ability of H460 and A549. This cytotoxic effect is associated with the induction of cell apoptosis and G1 arrest in those cell lines. Krukovine treatment also suppressed the C-RAF, ERK, AKT, PI3K, p70s6k, and mTOR phosphorylation in H460 and A549. This finding suggests that krukovine represses the growth and proliferation of KRAS-mutated cells by inactivating AKT signaling pathway and downregulating the RAF-ERK signaling pathway. This study provides detailed insights into the novel cytotoxic mechanism of an anti-cancer compound from an herbal plant and promotes the anti-cancer potential of krukovine in NSCLC with KRAS mutation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number958
JournalFrontiers in Pharmacology
Issue numberAUG
StatePublished - Aug 22 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • AKT
  • ERK
  • Inhibitor
  • KRAS
  • Krukovine
  • Natural products
  • Non-small cell lung cancer
  • RAF

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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