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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Spiperone enhances intracellular calcium level and inhibits the Wnt signaling pathway

Desheng Lu* and Dennis A Carson

Author Affiliations

Moores Cancer Center, University of California San Diego (UCSD), La Jolla, CA 92093, USA

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BMC Pharmacology 2009, 9:13  doi:10.1186/1471-2210-9-13

Published: 30 November 2009



Wnt signaling affects fundamental development pathways by regulating cell proliferation and differentiation. Aberrant activation of Wnt/β-catenin signaling promotes the development of several cancers and is an attractive target for chemopreventive and chemotherapeutic agents.


In order to identify the novel antagonists for the Wnt/β-catenin pathway, we employed a cell-based Wnt reporter system (TOPflash) to screen a library of 960 known drugs. We identified spiperone, a psychotropic drug, as a novel Wnt inhibitor, which specifically blocks canonical Wnt signaling prior to the activation of β-catenin. The Wnt inhibitory function of spiperone is not associated with its dopamine-, serotonin- and sigma-receptor antagonist properties. Instead, spiperone increases intracellular calcium levels in a similar manner to thapsigargin, that also impedes Wnt signal transduction. Inhibition of protein kinase C had no effect on spiperone-mediated antagonism of Wnt signaling.


Spiperone is a calcium regulator. It inhibits Wnt signaling by enhancing intracellular calcium levels.