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BMC Chem. 2019 Sep 24;13(1):117. doi: 10.1186/s13065-019-0633-4. eCollection 2019 Dec.

Construction of a novel quinoxaline as a new class of Nrf2 activator.

Author information

1Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, School of Pharmacy, International Medical University, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
4Center for Bioactive Molecules & Drug Delivery, Institute for Research, Development & Innovation, International Medical University, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
2School of Postgraduate Studies and Research, International Medical University, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
KVSR Siddhartha College of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh India.
6ISF College of Pharmacy, Moga, Punjab India.
7Department of Chemistry, Central University of Karnataka, Gulbarga, Kanataka India.
3Department of Pharmaceutical Technology, School of Pharmacy, International Medical University, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Contributed equally



The transcription factor Nuclear factor erythroid-2-related factor 2 (NRF2) and its principal repressive regulator, Kelch-like ECH-associated protein 1 (KEAP1), are perilous in the regulation of inflammation, as well as maintenance of homeostasis. Thus, NRF2 activation is involved in cytoprotection against many inflammatory disorders. N'-Nicotinoylquinoxaline-2-carbohdyrazide (NQC) was structurally designed by the combination of important pharmacophoric features of bioactive compounds reported in the literature.


NQC was synthesised and characterised using spectroscopic techniques. The compound was tested for its anti-inflammatory effect using Lipopolysaccharide from Escherichia coli (LPSEc) induced inflammation in mouse macrophages (RAW 264.7 cells). The effect of NQC on inflammatory cytokines was measured using enzyme-linked immune sorbent assay (ELISA). The Nrf2 activity of the compound NQC was determined using 'Keap1:Nrf2 Inhibitor Screening Assay Kit'. To obtain the insights on NQC's activity on Nrf2, molecular docking studies were performed using Schrödinger suite. The metabolic stability of NQC was determined using mouse, rat and human microsomes.


NQC was found to be non-toxic at the dose of 50 µM on RAW 264.7 cells. NQC showed potent anti-inflammatory effect in an in vitro model of LPSEc stimulated murine macrophages (RAW 264.7 cells) with an IC50 value 26.13 ± 1.17 µM. NQC dose-dependently down-regulated the pro-inflammatory cytokines [interleukin (IL)-1β (13.27 ± 2.37 μM), IL-6 (10.13 ± 0.58 μM) and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α] (14.41 ± 1.83 μM); and inflammatory mediator, prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) with IC50 values, 15.23 ± 0.91 µM. Molecular docking studies confirmed the favourable binding of NQC at Kelch domain of Keap-1. It disrupts the Nrf2 interaction with kelch domain of keap 1 and its IC50 value was 4.21 ± 0.89 µM. The metabolic stability studies of NQC in human, rat and mouse liver microsomes revealed that it is quite stable with half-life values; 63.30 ± 1.73, 52.23 ± 0.81, 24.55 ± 1.13 min; microsomal intrinsic clearance values; 1.14 ± 0.31, 1.39 ± 0.87 and 2.96 ± 0.34 µL/min/g liver; respectively. It is observed that rat has comparable metabolic profile with human, thus, rat could be used as an in vivo model for prediction of pharmacokinetics and metabolism profiles of NQC in human.


NQC is a new class of NRF2 activator with potent in vitro anti-inflammatory activity and good metabolic stability.


Anti-inflammatory; KEAP1; Metabolic stability; Molecular docking; NRF2; N′-nicotinoylquinoxaline-2-carbohydrazide

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