Ferroptosis is a regular cell death pathway that has been proposed as a suitable therapeutic target in cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. Since its definition in 2012, a few hundred ferroptosis modulators have been reported. Based on a literature search, we collected a set of diverse ferroptosis modulators and analyzed them in terms of their structural features and physicochemical and drug-likeness properties. Ferroptosis modulators are mostly natural products or semisynthetic derivatives. In this review, we focused on the abundant subgroup of polyphenolic modulators, primarily phenylpropanoids. Many natural polyphenolic antioxidants have antiferroptotic activities acting through at least one of the following effects: ROS scavenging and/or iron chelation activities, increased GPX4 and NRF2 expression, and LOX inhibition. Some polyphenols are described as ferroptosis inducers acting through the generation of ROS, intracellular accumulation of iron (II), or the inhibition of GPX4. However, some molecules have a dual mode of action depending on the cell type (cancer versus neural cells) and the (micro)environment. The latter enables their successful use (e.g., apigenin, resveratrol, curcumin, and EGCG) in rationally designed, multifunctional nanoparticles that selectively target cancer cells through ferroptosis induction.
By Višnja Stepanić, and Marta Kučerová-Chlupáčová