Background and Objective: Drug resistance and adverse effects are immense healthcare challenges in cancer therapy. Benzimidazole ring-based small molecules have been effective anticancer agents in drug development. In an effort to develop novel chemotherapeutics, we have synthesized and assessed the anticancer and antibacterial activities of a small library of structurally unique benzimidazoles.
Methods: The benzimidazoles are derived from indole, N-alkylated, fatty acid, and alpha-amino acid scaffolds providing a panel of diverse structures. The compounds were tested in three different cancer cell lines for cytotoxicity: HepG2 (human hepatocellular carcinoma), HeLa (human cervical carcinoma), and A549 (human lung carcinoma). Mechanism of cell death induced by benzimidazoles was evaluated using fluorescent dye-based apoptosis-necrosis assay, immunoblotting for active caspases, topoisomerase-II activity assay, and cell cycle assay.
Results: Cell viability testing revealed that indole- and fatty acid-based benzimidazoles were most potent followed by the amino acid derivatives. Many compounds induced cytotoxicity in a concentration-dependent manner with a cellular cytotoxicity (CC50) <20M in the cell lines tested. Most compounds exhibited cytotoxicity via apoptosis through intrinsic pathway. Inhibition of topoisomerase activity and cell cycle alterations were not the primary mechanisms of cytotoxicity. In addition, several compounds showed promising activity against S. aureus and S. epidermidis (Minimum Inhibitory Concentration (MIC) of as low as 0.04mol/mL).
Conclusion: The reported benzimidazole derivatives possess promising anticancer and antibacterial properties. Additionally, we discovered apoptosis to be the primary mechanism for cancer cell death induced by the tested benzimidazoles. Our findings suggest that further development of these scaffolds could provide drug leads towards new chemotherapeutics.