Dialkynylimidazoles as irreversible MAPK inhibitors, kinase docking site probes, and anti-cancer agents
Li, Jing, Ph. D.
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This dissertation research was aimed at investigating an interesting class of 1,2-dialkynylimidazoles as: 1. irreversible p38 MAP kinase α-isoform (p38α) inhibitors; 2. p38α docking site probes; 3. anti-cancer agents. Based on the mild, thermal rearrangement of 1,2-dialkynylimidazoles to reactive carbene or diradical intermediates, a series of 1,2-dialkynylimidazoles was designed as potential irreversible p38α inhibitors. The synthesis of these dialkynylimidazoles and their kinase inhibition activity were reported. Interestingly, one of the 1-ethynyl-substituted dialkynylimidazoles is a potent (IC50 = 200 nM) and selective inhibitor of p38α. Additionally, this compound covalently modifies p38α as determined by ESI-MS after 12 h incubation at 37 °C. The unique kinase inhibition, covalent kinase adduct formation, and minimal CYP450 2D6 inhibition by this compound demonstrate that dialkynylimidazoles are a new, promising class of p38α inhibitors. Blocking docking interactions between kinase network partners is a promising alternative approach for selectively inhibiting kinases. The second project involves the identification of a new class of small molecules, covalent p38α MAP kinase docking site probes. We proposed that the mechanism may involve the addition of a thiol to the N-ethynyl group. Moreover, we demonstrated that such probes can be used fluorescently to label p38α both in vitro and in cells via azide-alkyne “Click” chemistry. This serves as the basis of an assay that can be used to identify inhibitors that specifically target the substrate docking site of p38α. The last project was focused on evaluating a new class of 1,2-dialkynylimidazoles as anti-cancer agents. One 1,2-dialkynylimidazole analog was found to be cytotoxic against a range of human cancer lines and to induce apoptosis in the human non-small cell lung cancer cell line A549. In order to elucidate the relationship between the structural basis and role of the thermal generation of diradical or carbene intermediates, a series of dialkynylimidazoles and related N-alkynylimidazoles was prepared and their cytotoxicity was determined against A549 cell line. Although the experimentally determined activation energy is in excellent agreement with that predicated from the DFT calculation, there is no correlation between the rate of Bergman cyclization and cytotoxicity to A549 cells. An alternative mechanism was proposed involving the unexpected selective thiol addition to the N-ethynyl group of certain 1,2-dialkynylimidazoles.