Mannich base approach to 5-methoxyisatin 3-(4-isopropylphenyl)hydrazone: A water-soluble prodrug for a multitarget inhibition of cholinesterases, beta-amyloid fibrillization and oligomer-induced cytotoxicity

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Targeting protein aggregation for the therapy of neurodegenerative diseases remains elusive for medicinal chemists, despite a number of small molecules known to interfere in amyloidogenesis, particularly of amyloid beta (Aβ) protein. Starting from previous findings in the antiaggregating activity of a class of indolin-2-ones inhibiting Aβ fibrillization, 5-methoxyisatin 3-(4-isopropylphenyl)hydrazone 1 was identified as a multitarget inhibitor of Aβ aggregation and cholinesterases with IC50s in the low μM range. With the aim of increasing aqueous solubility, a Mannich-base functionalization led to the synthesis of N-methylpiperazine derivative 2. At acidic pH, an outstanding solubility increase of 2 over the parent compound 1 was proved through a turbidimetric method. HPLC analysis revealed an improved stability of the Mannich base 2 at pH 2 along with a rapid release of 1 in human serum as well as an outstanding hydrolytic stability of the parent hydrazone. Coincubation of Aβ1–42 with 2 resulted in the accumulation of low MW oligomers, as detected with PICUP assay. Cell assays on SH-SY5Y cells revealed that 2 exerts strong cytoprotective effects in both cell viability and radical quenching assays, mainly related to its active metabolite 1. These findings show that 2 drives the formation of non-toxic, off-pathway Aβ oligomers unable to trigger the amyloid cascade and toxicity.

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