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Pharmacol Rev. 2012 Oct;64(4):972-1003. doi: 10.1124/pr.111.004846. Epub 2012 Sep 10.

Synthetic oleanane triterpenoids: multifunctional drugs with a broad range of applications for prevention and treatment of chronic disease.

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Departments of Medicine and Pharmacology, Dartmouth Medical School, Hanover, NH 03755, USA.


We review the rationale for the use of synthetic oleanane triterpenoids (SOs) for prevention and treatment of disease, as well as extensive biological data on this topic resulting from both cell culture and in vivo studies. Emphasis is placed on understanding mechanisms of action. SOs are noncytotoxic drugs with an excellent safety profile. Several hundred SOs have now been synthesized and in vitro have been shown to: 1) suppress inflammation and oxidative stress and therefore be cytoprotective, especially at low nanomolar doses, 2) induce differentiation, and 3) block cell proliferation and induce apoptosis at higher micromolar doses. Animal data on the use of SOs in neurodegenerative diseases and in diseases of the eye, lung, cardiovascular system, liver, gastrointestinal tract, and kidney, as well as in cancer and in metabolic and inflammatory/autoimmune disorders, are reviewed. The importance of the cytoprotective Kelch-like erythroid cell-derived protein with CNC homology-associated protein 1/nuclear factor (erythroid-derived 2)-like 2/antioxidant response element (Keap1/Nrf2/ARE) pathway as a mechanism of action is explained, but interactions with peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ (PARPγ), inhibitor of nuclear factor-κB kinase complex (IKK), janus tyrosine kinase/signal transducer and activator of transcription (JAK/STAT), human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)/ErbB2/neu, phosphatase and tensin homolog (PTEN), the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase/protein kinase B (PI3K/Akt) pathway, mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), and the thiol proteome are also described. In these interactions, Michael addition of SOs to reactive cysteine residues in specific molecular targets triggers biological activity. Ultimately, SOs are multifunctional drugs that regulate the activity of entire networks. Recent progress in the earliest clinical trials with 2-cyano-3,12-dioxooleana-1,9(11)-dien-28-oic acid (CDDO) methyl ester (bardoxolone methyl) is also summarized.

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