Impairing the division of cancer cells with genotoxic small molecules has been a primary goal to develop chemotherapeutic agents. However, DNA mismatch repair (MMR)-deficient cancer cells are resistant to most conventional chemotherapeutic agents. Here we have identified baicalein as a small molecule that selectively kills MutSa-deficient cancer cells. Baicalein binds preferentially to mismatched DNA and induces a DNA damage response in a MMR-dependent manner. In MutSa-proficient cells, baicalein binds to MutSa to dissociate CHK2 from MutSa leading to S-phase arrest and cell survival. In contrast, continued replication in the presence of baicalein in MutSa-deficient cells results in a high number of DNA double-strand breaks and ultimately leads to apoptosis. Consistently, baicalein specifically shrinks MutSa-deficient xenograft tumors and inhibits the growth of AOM-DSS-induced colon tumors in colon-specific MSH2 knockout mice. Collectively, baicalein offers the potential of an improved treatment option for patients with tumors with a DNA MMR deficiency.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research