Canadian journal of physiology and pharmacology

Therapeutic effects of antibiotic drug mefloquine against cervical cancer through impairing mitochondrial function and inhibiting mTOR pathway.

PMID 27831748


Targeting mitochondria is an attractive strategy for cancer therapy due to the essential roles of mitochondria in cancer cell energy metabolism. In this study, we show that mefloquine, an antibiotic drug, effectively targets cervical cancer cells through impairing mitochondrial function. Mefloquine dose-dependently induces apoptosis and inhibits proliferation and anchorage-independent colony formation of multiple cervical cancer cell lines. Mefloquine alone inhibits cervical tumor growth in vivo and its combination with paclitaxel is synergistic in inhibiting tumor growth. Mechanistically, mefloquine inhibits mitochondrial function via inhibiting mitochondrial respiration, decreasing membrane potential, increasing ROS generation, and decreasing ATP level. We further show that mefloquine suppresses activation of mTOR signaling pathway in HeLa cells. However, the inhibitory effects of mefloquine on survival, colony formation, and ATP are abolished in mitochondrial respiration-deficient HeLa ρ(0) cells, demonstrating that mefloquine acts on cervical cancer cells via targeting mitochondrial respiration. Inhibition of mTOR signaling pathway by mefloquine was also reversed in HeLa ρ(0) cells, suggesting deactivation of mTOR pathway as a consequence of mitochondria function disruption. Our work suggests that mefloquine is a potential candidate for cervical cancer treatment. Our work also highlights the therapeutic value of anti-mitochondria and establishes the association of mitochondrial function and the activation of mTOR signaling pathway in cervical cancer cells.