Design, Synthesis, and Structure-Activity Relationship Investigation of Selective Sphingosine Kinase Inhibitors
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Sphingosine kinase 1 (SphK1) is the key enzyme catalyzing the formation of sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P), which is an important signaling molecule that regulates multiple biological process including inflammatory responses. Elevated SphK1 activity as well as upregulated S1P levels is linked to various diseases such as cancer, fibrosis and sickle cell disease. Therefore, there is a growing interest in studying SphK1 as a potential target for these diseases. Through high-throughput screening, various SphK1 inhibitors have been discovered, among which PF-543 is the most potent and selective inhibitor reported to date (Ki=3.6 nM, >100 fold selectivity for SphK1). Previous research indicated that SphK1 inhibitor PF-543 is effective in reducing S1P levels and slowing down the development of sickle cell disease in vivo. However, the lack of in vivo stability of PF-543 still makes it necessary to develop inhibitors with an improved pharmacokinetic profile. In this study, PF-543 was employed as the lead compound, and the influence of different tails groups and head groups on binding affinity and in vivo stability were investigated. In brief, (R)-prolinol-based derivatives with various tail groups including alkyl, alkoxy and biphenyl groups were synthesized. Their inhibition potency was tested in a broken-cell assay, and hit compounds were further evaluated in a yeast cell assay to determine EC50 values. The U937 cell line and mice model were utilized for hit compounds to quantify S1P reduction in vitro and in vivo. Our preliminary results indicated compound 2.14d was the best hit discovered, with 88% SphK1 inhibition at 1 μM. In addition, compound 2.14d with a Ki of 0.68 μM and an EC50 of 0.15 μM, reduced the S1P of U937 cells by 90% at 1 μM. Its analog with a shorter tail group, 2.14a, reduced plasma S1P levels by 20% in mice (10 mg/kg, 3 h). Further modification of the head group of 2.14d produced compound 3.14c bearing a secondary benzylamine head group, with an EC50 value of 0.39 μM and less in vivo activity (14% plasma S1P reduction at 10 mg/kg, 6 h).
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