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Eur J Med Chem. 2011 May;46(5):1682-93. doi: 10.1016/j.ejmech.2011.02.019. Epub 2011 Feb 22.

Benzophenone-based derivatives: a novel series of potent and selective dual inhibitors of acetylcholinesterase and acetylcholinesterase-induced beta-amyloid aggregation.

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Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Bologna, Via Belmeloro 6, 40126 Bologna, Italy.


The leading mechanistic theory of Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the "amyloid hypothesis" which states that the accumulation of the amyloid β protein (Aβ), and its subsequent aggregation into plaques, is responsible for the initiation of a cascade of events resulting in neurodegeneration and dementia. The anti-amyloid disease-modifying approach, based on the decrease in the production of Aβ, gained thus a paramount importance. The aim of this study was the design and synthesis of a new series of acetylcholinesterase inhibitors (AChEIs) endowed with anti-Aβ aggregating capability. These dual binding inhibitors, being able to interact both with the peripheral anionic site (PAS) of AChE and the catalytic subsite, proved to be able to inhibit the AChE-induced Aβ aggregation. Thus, starting from the lead compound 1, an AChEI composed by a benzophenone scaffold and a N,N'-methylbenzylamino group, a substantial modification aimed at targeting the PAS was performed. To this aim, different amino-terminal side chains were incorporated into this main framework, in order to mimic the diethylmethylammonium alkyl moiety of the pure PAS ligand propidium. The synthesized compounds proved to effectively and selectively inhibit AChE. Moreover, compounds 16a-c and 18a,b, with a propoxy and a hexyloxy tether respectively, showed a good activity against the AChE-induced Aβ aggregation. In particular, molecular modeling studies confirmed that compounds carrying the diethylaminopropoxy and the diethylaminohexyloxy side chains (compounds 16a and 19a, respectively) could suitably contact the PAS pocket of the enzyme.

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