On the pattern of the potent and selective butyrylcholinesterase (BChE) inhibitors ethopropazine and Astra1397, sets of quinolizidinyl derivatives of bi- and tricyclic (hetero)aromatic systems were studied as dual, or BChE-selective inhibitors. All compounds exhibited activity against both cholinesterases, but inhibition of BChE was generally stronger, with submicromolar IC50 values for most of them (e.g. 15: IC50 versus BChE=0.15 μM; SI=47). However, in a subset of quinolizidinyl derivatives of 6-hydroxycoumarin an inverted selectivity for acetylcholinesterase (AChE) was observed (e.g. 46: IC50 versus AChE=0.35 μM; SI=0.06). Docking studies furnished a sound interpretation of the observed different enzyme activity. Several of the studied compounds have shown, in the past, additional pharmacological properties (as antagonism on presynaptic muscarinic autoreceptor; inhibition of enkephaline aminopeptidase and antipsychotic activity) of some relevance in Alzheimer's disease, and may, therefore, represent hits for the development of interesting single-entity multi-target drugs.
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