Artesunate is a derivative of artemisinin, an active compound isolated from Artemisia annua which has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine and to treat malaria worldwide. Artemisinin derivatives have exhibited anti-cancer activity against both solid tumors and leukemia. The direct target(s) of artesunate are controversial; although, heme-bound proteins in the mitochondria have been implicated. We utilized computational modeling to calculate the predicted binding score of artesunate with heme-bound mitochondrial proteins and identified cytochrome c as potential artesunate target. UV–visible spectroscopy showed changes in the absorbance spectrum, and thus protein structure, when cytochrome c was incubated with artesunate. Artesunate induces apoptosis, disrupts mitochondrial membrane potential, and is antagonized by methazolamide in pediatric AML cells indicating a probable mechanism of action involving cytochrome c. We utilized a multi-disciplinary approach to show that artesunate can interact with and is dependent on cytochrome c release to induce cell death in pediatric AML cell lines.

Original languageEnglish
Article number22383
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023

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© 2023, The Author(s).

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