Leishmaniasis and Chagas' disease constitute a relevant health and socio-economic problem in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. The therapeutic interventions rely on inefficient and highly toxic drugs with systemic side effects in patients. Considering the multiple biological activities of the calcium channel blockers and the high versatility of 1,4-dihydropyridines, eight clinically used 1,4-dihydropyridines (azelnidipine, amlodipine, cilnidipine, lercanidipine, nicardipine, nifedipine, nimodipine and nitrendipine) were in vitro tested against Leishmania and Trypanosoma cruzi parasites, and their cytotoxicity was tested against mammalian cells. In addition, a QSAR study was performed in order to delineate further structural requirements for the anti-protozoan activity and to predict the biological potency of 1,4-dihydropyridines. The tested compounds were effective against Leishmania (L.) amazonensis, Leishmania (V.)braziliensis, Leishmania (L.) chagasi, and Leishmania (L.) major promastigotes, L. (L.) chagasi intracellular amastigotes and T. cruzi trypomastigotes with 50% inhibitory concentration (IC(50)) values in the range of 2.6-181μM. The QSAR provided useful information about the structural features of the anti-protozoan activities, including diphenylpropyl and diphenylmethylazetidin groups at position 4 of the 1,4-dihydropyridine ring, allowing the prediction of two novel potential anti-protozoan analogs.
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