Oxidative metabolism of a quinoxaline derivative by xanthine oxidase in rodent plasma

Chem Res Toxicol. 2011 Dec 19;24(12):2207-16. doi: 10.1021/tx200329k. Epub 2011 Oct 4.


As part of efforts directed at the G protein-coupled receptor 119 agonist program for type 2 diabetes, a series of cyanopyridine derivatives exemplified by isopropyl-4-(3-cyano-5-(quinoxalin-6-yl)pyridine-2-yl)piperazine-1-carboxylate (1) were identified as novel chemotypes worthy of further hit-to-lead optimization. Compound 1, however, was found to be unstable in plasma (37 °C, pH 7.4) from rat (T(1/2) = 16 min), mouse (T(1/2) = 61 min), and guinea pig (T(1/2) = 4 min). Lowering the temperature of plasma incubations (4-25 °C) attenuated the degradation of 1, implicating the involvement of an enzyme-mediated process. Failure to detect any appreciable amount of 1 in plasma samples from protein binding and pharmacokinetic studies in rats was consistent with its labile nature in plasma. Instability noted in rodent plasma was not observed in plasma from dogs, monkeys, and humans (T(1/2) > 370 min at 37 °C, pH 7.4). Metabolite identification studies in rodent plasma revealed the formation of a single metabolite (M1), which was 16 Da higher than the molecular weight of 1 (compound 1, MH(+) = 403; M1, MH(+) = 419). Pretreatment of rat plasma with allopurinol, but not raloxifene, abolished the conversion of 1 to M1, suggesting that xanthine oxidase (XO) was responsible for the oxidative instability. Consistent with the known catalytic mechanism of XO, the source of oxygen incorporated in M1 was derived from water rather than molecular oxygen. The formation of M1 was also demonstrated in incubations of 1 with purified bovine XO. The structure of M1 was determined by NMR analysis to be isopropyl-4-(3-cyano-5-(3-oxo-3,4-dihydroquinoxalin-6-yl)pyridine-2-yl)piperazine-1-carboxylate. The regiochemistry of quinoxaline ring oxidation in 1 was consistent with ab initio calculations and molecular docking studies using a published crystal structure of bovine XO. A close-in analogue of 1, which lacked the quinoxaline motif (e.g., 5-(4-cyano-3-methylphenyl)-2-(4-(3-isopropyl-1,2,4-oxadiazol-5-yl)piperidin-1-yl)nicotinitrile (2)) was stable in rat plasma and possessed substantially improved GPR119 agonist properties. To the best of our knowledge, our studies constitute the first report on the involvement of rodent XO in oxidative drug metabolism in plasma.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Binding Sites
  • Cattle
  • Computer Simulation
  • Dogs
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Haplorhini
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Mice
  • Oxadiazoles / chemistry*
  • Oxadiazoles / pharmacokinetics
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Piperidines / chemistry*
  • Piperidines / pharmacokinetics
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Quinoxalines / chemistry
  • Quinoxalines / metabolism*
  • Quinoxalines / pharmacokinetics
  • Rats
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / agonists
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / metabolism
  • Temperature
  • Xanthine Oxidase / blood*
  • Xanthine Oxidase / metabolism*


  • 5-(4-cyano-3-methylphenyl)-2-(4-(3-isopropyl-1,2,4-oxadiazol-5-yl)piperidin-1-yl)nicotinitrile
  • GPR119 protein, human
  • Oxadiazoles
  • Piperidines
  • Quinoxalines
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • Xanthine Oxidase