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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 818709, 11 pages
Research Article

Integration of Different “-omics” Technologies Identifies Inhibition of the IGF1R-Akt-mTOR Signaling Cascade Involved in the Cytotoxic Effect of Shikonin against Leukemia Cells

1Institute of Pharmacy and Biochemistry, Department of Pharmaceutical Biology, Johannes Gutenberg University, Staudinger Weg 5, 55128 Mainz, Germany
2Agricultural Biotechnology Research Center, Academia Sinica, 115 Taipei, Taiwan
3Cytometry Core Facility, Institute of Molecular Biology, Ackermannweg 4, 55128 Mainz, Germany
4HanseMerkur Center for Traditional Chinese Medicine at the University Medical Center Eppendorf, 20246 Hamburg, Germany

Received 18 March 2013; Accepted 7 May 2013

Academic Editor: Sookyung Lee

Copyright © 2013 Benjamin Wiench et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Hematological malignancies frequently have a poor prognosis and often remain incurable. Drug resistance, severe side effects, and relapse are major problems of currently used drugs, and new candidate compounds are required for improvement of therapy success. The naphthoquinone shikonin derived from the Chinese medicinal herb, Lithospermum erythrorhizon, is a promising candidate for the next generation of chemotherapy. The basal cellular mechanism of shikonin is the direct targeting of mitochondria. Cytotoxicity screenings showed that the compound is particularly effective against leukemia cells suggesting an additional cellular mechanism. mRNA and miRNA microarrays were used to analyze changes in gene expression in leukemia cells after shikonin treatment and combined with stable-isotope dimethyl labeling for quantitative proteomics. The integration of bioinformatics and the three “-omics” assays showed that the PI3K-Akt-mTOR pathway was affected by shikonin. Deregulations of this pathway are frequently associated with cancerogenesis, especially in a wide range of hematological malignancies. The effect on the PI3K-Akt-mTOR axis was validated by demonstrating a decreased phosphorylation of Akt and a direct inhibition of the IGF1R kinase activity after shikonin treatment. Our results indicate that inhibiting the IGF1R-Akt-mTOR signaling cascade is a new cellular mechanism of shikonin strengthening its potential for the treatment of hematological malignancies.