Open Access

Tubulin-interactive stilbene derivatives as anticancer agents

Cellular & Molecular Biology LettersAn International Journal201318:94

Received: 10 January 2013

Accepted: 20 June 2013

Published: 1 July 2013


Microtubules are dynamic polymers that occur in eukaryotic cells and play important roles in cell division, motility, transport and signaling. They form during the process of polymerization of α- and β-tubulin dimers. Tubulin is a significant and heavily researched molecular target for anticancer drugs. Combretastatins are natural cis-stilbenes that exhibit cytotoxic properties in cultured cancer cells in vitro. Combretastatin A-4 (3′-hydroxy-3,4,4′, 5-tetramethoxy-cis-stilbene; CA-4) is a potent cytotoxic cis-stilbene that binds to β-tubulin at the colchicine-binding site and inhibits tubulin polymerization. The prodrug CA-4 phosphate is currently in clinical trials as a chemotherapeutic agent for cancer treatment. Numerous series of stilbene analogs have been studied in search of potent cytotoxic agents with the requisite tubulin-interactive properties. Microtubule-interfering agents include numerous CA-4 and transresveratrol analogs and other synthetic stilbene derivatives. Importantly, these agents are active in both tumor cells and immature endothelial cells of tumor blood vessels, where they inhibit the process of angiogenesis. Recently, computer-aided virtual screening was used to select potent tubulin-interactive compounds. This review covers the role of stilbene derivatives as a class of antitumor agents that act by targeting microtubule assembly dynamics. Additionally, we present the results of molecular modeling of their binding to specific sites on the α- and β-tubulin heterodimer. This has enabled the elucidation of the mechanism of stilbene cytotoxicity and is useful in the design of novel agents with improved anti-mitotic activity. Tubulin-interactive agents are believed to have the potential to play a significant role in the fight against cancer.

Key words

Tubulin polymerization Tubulin-interactive agents Stilbenes Combretastatins