Humulanolides are natural products isolated from Asteriscus, and the isolation and total synthesis of many types of humulanolides have been reported. In this study, we evaluated anti-proliferative activity of twelve humulanolides against various human cancer cell lines and found that humulanolide analog E, which was newly designed and synthesized, exhibited the highest anti-proliferative activity. Structure-activity relationship analysis revealed that α,β-unsaturated carbonyl moieties in humulanolides play an important role for anti-proliferative activity. To identify molecular targets of humulanolide analog E, we investigated various cell-based and in vitro assays. Treatment with humulanolide analog E against human fibrosarcoma HT1080 cells increased the expression level of HSP70 protein and decreased the levels of AKT and CDK4, which are HSP90 client proteins. Moreover, humulanolide analog E inhibited refolding of denatured luciferase protein via suppression of HSP90 activity in vitro. These results suggest that humulanolide analog E possesses the anti-proliferative activity against human cancer cells by inhibiting HSP90 functions.
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