The poor prognosis of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and the highly heterogenous nature of the disease motivates targeted gene therapeutic investigations. Rho-associated protein kinases (ROCKs) are crucial for various actin cytoskeletal changes, which have established malignant consequences in various cancers, yet are still not being successfully utilized clinically towards cancer treatment. This work establishes the therapeutic activity of ROCK inhibitor (5Z)-2–5-(1H-pyrrolo [2,3-b]pyridine-3-ylmethylene)-1,3-thiazol-4(5H)-one (DJ4) in both in vitro and in vivo preclinical models of AML to highlight the potential of this class of inhibitors. Herein, DJ4 induced cytotoxic and proapoptotic effects in a dose-dependent manner in human AML cell lines (IC50: 0.05–1.68 µM) and primary patient cells (IC50: 0.264–13.43 µM); however, normal hematopoietic cells were largely spared. ROCK inhibition by DJ4 disrupts the phosphorylation of downstream targets, myosin light chain (MLC2) and myosin-binding subunit of MLC phosphatase (MYPT), yielding a potent yet selective treatment response at micromolar concentrations, from 0.02 to 1 µM. Murine models injected with luciferase-expressing leukemia cell lines subcutaneously or intravenously and treated with DJ4 exhibited an increase in overall survival and reduction in disease progression relative to the vehicle-treated control mice. Overall, DJ4 is a promising candidate to utilize in future investigations to advance the current AML therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number4889
Issue number19
StatePublished - Oct 1 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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