Iminosugars as therapeutic agents: recent advances and promising trends

Future Med Chem. 2011 Sep;3(12):1513-21. doi: 10.4155/fmc.11.117.


For the purpose of this article, iminosugars are polyhydroxylated secondary and tertiary amines in which the molecules resemble monosaccharide sugars in which the ring oxygen is replaced by the nitrogen. The bicyclic structures may biologically resemble disaccharides. Very few iminosugars have been available up to now for evaluation of their pharmaceutical applications. The early compounds were discovered and selected for study due to glycosidase inhibition, which is now known to not be necessary for pharmacological activity and may cause off-target effects. Glyset® and Zavesca®, derived from the glucosidase-inhibiting natural product 1-deoxynojirimycin, are the first two examples of iminosugar drugs. Since the discovery of this first generation, many new natural products have been identified with a wide range of biological activities but few are widely available. Among the biological properties of these compounds are good oral bioavailability and very specific immune modulatory and chaperoning activity. Although the natural products from plants and microorganisms can have good specificity, modifications of the template natural products have been very successful recently in producing bioactive compounds with good profiles. The field of iminosugars continues to open up exciting new opportunities for therapeutic agent discovery and offers many new tools for precisely modifying carbohydrate structures and modulating glycosidase activity in vivo. Current efforts are directed towards a greater range of structures and a wider range of biochemical targets.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • 1-Deoxynojirimycin / chemistry
  • 1-Deoxynojirimycin / pharmacology
  • 1-Deoxynojirimycin / therapeutic use
  • Antiviral Agents / chemistry
  • Antiviral Agents / pharmacology
  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use
  • Gaucher Disease / drug therapy
  • Glycoside Hydrolases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Glycoside Hydrolases / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hyperglycemia / drug therapy
  • Imino Sugars / chemistry*
  • Imino Sugars / pharmacology
  • Imino Sugars / therapeutic use
  • Molecular Chaperones / chemistry
  • Molecular Chaperones / metabolism
  • Virus Diseases / drug therapy


  • Antiviral Agents
  • Imino Sugars
  • Molecular Chaperones
  • 1-Deoxynojirimycin
  • Glycoside Hydrolases