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Eur J Pharmacol. 1998 Aug 7;354(2-3):289-99.

Studies on the teratogen pharmacophore of valproic acid analogues: evidence of interactions at a hydrophobic centre.

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Department of Food Toxicology, School of Veterinary Medicine, Hannover, Germany.


Propyl-4-yn-valproic acid (2-propyl-4-pentynoic acid), an analogue of valproic acid with a triple bond in one alkyl side chain, potently induces exencephaly in mice. Given that propyl-4-yn-valproic acid is a branched chain carboxylic acid, we synthesized a series of analogues with n-alkyl side chains of increasing length and correlated their potential to induce neural tube defects and to inhibit proliferation and induce differentiation in cells of neural origin, the latter being crucial to the orderly structuring of the embryo. All analogues significantly increased the incidence of neural tube defects in the embryos of dams exposed to a single dose of 1.25 mmol/kg on day 8 of gestation. This effect occurred in a dose-dependent manner and the rate of exencephaly increased with the progressive increase in n-alkyl side chain length. Moreover, increasing chain length resulted in a dose-dependent inhibition of C6 glioma proliferation rate over a concentration range of 0-3 mM and this was independent of the cell type employed and mode of estimating proliferative rate. The antiproliferative action of these analogues was associated with profound shape change in neuro-2A neuroblastoma involving extensive neuritogenesis and an associated increase in neural cell adhesion molecule (NCAM) prevalence at points of cell-cell contact, the latter exhibiting a dose-dependent increase when the n-alkyl chain was extended to five carbon units. These results suggest an interaction with a specific site in which the n-alkyl side is proposed to serve as an 'anchor' within a hydrophobic pocket to facilitate the ionic and/or H-bonding of the carboxylic acid and high electron density of the carbon-carbon triple bond.

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