Theranostics 2019; 9(19):5577-5594. doi:10.7150/thno.34663

Research Paper

CPX Targeting DJ-1 Triggers ROS-induced Cell Death and Protective Autophagy in Colorectal Cancer

Jing Zhou1,2*, Lu Zhang2*, Meng Wang2*, Li Zhou2, Xuping Feng2, Linli Yu1, Jiang Lan2, Wei Gao2, Chundong Zhang1, Youquan Bu1, Canhua Huang2, Haiyuan Zhang3✉, Yunlong Lei1✉

1. Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Molecular Medicine and Cancer Research Center, Chongqing Medical University, Chongqing, 400016, P.R.China
2. State Key Laboratory of Biotherapy and Cancer Center, West China Hospital, and West China School of Basic Medical Sciences & Forensic Medicine, Sichuan University, and Collaborative Innovation Center for Biotherapy, Chengdu, 610041, P.R. China
3. Key Laboratory of Tropical Diseases and Translational Medicine of Ministry of Education & Department of Neurology, the First Affiliated Hospital of Hainan Medical University, Haikou, P. R. China
*These authors contributed equally to this work.

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( See for full terms and conditions.
Zhou J, Zhang L, Wang M, Zhou L, Feng X, Yu L, Lan J, Gao W, Zhang C, Bu Y, Huang C, Zhang H, Lei Y. CPX Targeting DJ-1 Triggers ROS-induced Cell Death and Protective Autophagy in Colorectal Cancer. Theranostics 2019; 9(19):5577-5594. doi:10.7150/thno.34663. Available from

File import instruction


Rationale: Colorectal cancer (CRC) is one of the most common cancers worldwide. Ciclopirox olamine (CPX) has recently been identified to be a promising anticancer candidate; however, novel activities and detailed mechanisms remain to be uncovered.

Methods: The cytotoxic potential of CPX towards CRC cells was examined in vitro and in vivo. The global gene expression pattern, ROS levels, mitochondrial function, autophagy, apoptosis, etc. were determined between control and CPX-treated CRC cells.

Results: We found that CPX inhibited CRC growth by inhibiting proliferation and inducing apoptosis both in vitro and in vivo. The anti-cancer effects of CPX involved the downregulation of DJ-1, and overexpression of DJ-1 could reverse the cytotoxic effect of CPX on CRC cells. The loss of DJ-1 resulted in mitochondrial dysfunction and ROS accumulation, thus leading to CRC growth inhibition. The cytoprotective autophagy was provoked simultaneously, and blocking autophagy pharmacologically or genetically could further enhance the anti-cancer efficacy of CPX.

Conclusion: Our study demonstrates that DJ-1 loss-induced ROS accumulation plays a pivotal role in CPX-mediated CRC inhibition, providing a further understanding for CRC treatment via modulating compensatory protective autophagy.

Keywords: Ciclopirox olamine, DJ-1, mitochondria, ROS, Autophagy