Diarylpropionitrile (DPN) enantiomers: synthesis and evaluation of estrogen receptor β-selective ligands

J Med Chem. 2012 Jan 12;55(1):528-37. doi: 10.1021/jm201436k. Epub 2011 Dec 14.


Two estrogen receptor (ER) subtypes, ERα and ERβ, mediate the actions of estrogens in diverse reproductive and nonreproductive target tissues. ER subtype-selective ligands, which bind to and activate these subtypes differentially, have proved to be useful in elucidating which actions of estrogens proceed through ERα vs ERβ. Some of these ligands show potential as novel therapeutic agents. Diarylpropionitrile (DPN), an ERβ selective ligand that we developed, is a chiral molecule, but it has been studied almost exclusively as the racemic mixture (rac-DPN, 1). Herein we report the development of an efficient enantioselective synthesis of the two isomers, R-DPN (3) and S-DPN (2), and we have compared the in vitro ligand binding affinities, coactivator binding affinities, recruitment potencies, and cellular transcriptional potencies of these isomers. Both enantiomers show a very high affinity and potency preference for ERβ over ERα, typically in the range of 80-300-fold. Although the enantioselectivity is only modest (3-4-fold), the R-enantiomer is the higher affinity and more potent isomer. While ERβ can be effectively and selectively stimulated by rac-DPN or by either R-DPN or S-DPN, R-DPN might be the preferred member of this isomeric series for biological studies of ERβ function.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Estrogen Receptor alpha / genetics
  • Estrogen Receptor alpha / metabolism
  • Estrogen Receptor beta / genetics
  • Estrogen Receptor beta / metabolism*
  • Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer
  • Humans
  • Ligands
  • Molecular Conformation
  • Nitriles / chemical synthesis*
  • Nitriles / chemistry
  • Nitriles / pharmacology
  • Nuclear Receptor Coactivator 3 / metabolism
  • Protein Binding
  • Stereoisomerism
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Transcriptional Activation / drug effects
  • Transfection


  • 2,3-bis(4-hydroxyphenyl)-propionitrile
  • Estrogen Receptor alpha
  • Estrogen Receptor beta
  • Ligands
  • Nitriles
  • Nuclear Receptor Coactivator 3