Ornithine decarboxylase (ODC) is a rate-limiting enzyme in the first step of polyamine biosynthesis that is associated with cell growth and tumor formation. Existing catalytic inhibitors of ODC have lacked efficacy in clinical testing or displayed unacceptable toxicity. In this study, we report the identification of an effective and nontoxic allosteric inhibitor of ODC. Using computer docking simulation and an in vitro ODC enzyme assay, we identified herbacetin, a natural compound found in flax and other plants, as a novel ODC inhibitor. Mechanistic investigations defined aspartate 44 in ODC as critical for binding. Herbacetin exhibited potent anticancer activity in colon cancer cell lines expressing high levels of ODC. Intraperitoneal or oral administration of herbacetin effectively suppressed HCT116 xenograft tumor growth and also reduced the number and size of polyps in a mouse model of APC-driven colon cancer (ApcMin/+). Unlike the well-established ODC inhibitor DFMO, herbacetin treatment was not associated with hearing loss. Taken together, our findings defined the natural product herbacetin as an allosteric inhibitor of ODC with chemopreventive and antitumor activity in preclinical models of colon cancer, prompting its further investigation in clinical trials.
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Acknowledgments This work was supported by The Hormel Foundation and National Institutes of Health grants CA120388, R37 CA081064, ES016548 and the Research Funds, M-2011-B0002-00033 and M-2011-B0002-00025 of The Catholic University of Korea. The costs of publication of this article were defrayed in part by the payment of page charges. This article must therefore be hereby marked advertisement in accordance with 18 U.S.C. Section 1734 solely to indicate this fact.