Plant Alkaloid Tetrandrine Is a Nuclear Receptor 4A1 Antagonist and Inhibits Panc-1 Cell Growth In Vitro and In Vivo

Hyo Seon Lee, Dae Hwan Kim, In Seon Lee, Ji Hyun Park, Gregory Martin, Stephen Safe, Keuk Jun Kim, Joung Hee Kim, Byung Ik Jang, Syng Ook Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The orphan nuclear receptor 4A1 (NR4A1) is highly expressed in human pancreatic cancer cells and exerts pro-oncogenic activity. In a previous study, we demonstrated that fangchinoline (FCN), a natural inhibitor of nuclear NR4A1, induces NR4A1-dependent apoptosis in human pancreatic cancer cells. In this study, we evaluated FCN and its structural analogs (berbamine, isotetrandrine, tetrandrine, and tubocurarine) for their inhibitory effects on NR4A1 transactivity, and confirmed that tetrandrine (TTD) showed the highest inhibitory effect in pancreatic cancer cells. Moreover, in a tryptophan fluorescence quenching assay, TTD directly bound to the ligand binding domain (LBD) of NR4A1 with a KD value of 10.60 µM. Treatment with TTD decreased proliferation and induced apoptosis in Panc-1 human pancreatic cancer cells in part through the reduced expression of the Sp1-dependent anti-apoptotic gene survivin and induction of ROS-mediated endoplasmic reticulum stress, which are the well-known NR4A1-dependent proapoptotic pathways. Furthermore, at a dose of 25 mg/kg/day, TTD reduced tumor growth in an athymic nude mouse xenograft model bearing Panc-1 cells. These data show that TTD is an NR4A1 antagonist and that modulation of the NR4A1-mediated pro-survival pathways is involved in the antitumor effects of TTD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number5280
JournalInternational journal of molecular sciences
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 1 2022


  • NR4A1
  • antagonist
  • apoptosis
  • pancreatic cancer
  • tetrandrine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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