We recently showed that oxadiazoles have anti-Trypanosoma cruzi activity at micromolar concentrations. These compounds are easy to synthesize and show a number of clear and interpretable structure-activity relationships (SAR), features that make them attractive to pursue potency enhancement. We present here the structural design, synthesis, and anti-T. cruzi evaluation of new oxadiazoles denoted 5a-h and 6a-h. The design of these compounds was based on a previous model of computational docking of oxadiazoles on the T. cruzi protease cruzain. We tested the ability of these compounds to inhibit catalytic activity of cruzain, but we found no correlation between the enzyme inhibition and the antiparasitic activity of the compounds. However, we found reliable SAR data when we tested these compounds against the whole parasite. While none of these oxadiazoles showed toxicity for mammalian cells, oxadiazoles 6c (fluorine), 6d (chlorine), and 6e (bromine) reduced epimastigote proliferation and were cidal for trypomastigotes of T. cruzi Y strain. Oxadiazoles 6c and 6d have IC(50) of 9.5 ± 2.8 and 3.5 ± 1.8 μM for trypomastigotes, while Benznidazole, which is the currently used drug for Chagas disease treatment, showed an IC(50) of 11.3 ± 2.8 μM. Compounds 6c and 6d impair trypomastigote development and invasion in macrophages, and also induce ultrastructural alterations in trypomastigotes. Finally, compound 6d given orally at 50mg/kg substantially reduces the parasitemia in T. cruzi-infected BALB/c mice. Our drug design resulted in potency enhancement of oxadiazoles as anti-Chagas disease agents, and culminated with the identification of oxadiazole 6d, a trypanosomicidal compound in an animal model of infection.
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