Clinical development of ROCK inhibitors has so far been limited by systemic or local ROCK-associated side effects. A soft drug approach, which involves predictable metabolic inactivation of an active compound to a nontoxic metabolite, could represent an attractive way to obtain ROCK inhibitors with improved tolerability. We herein report the design and synthesis of a new series of soft ROCK inhibitors structurally related to the ROCK inhibitor Y-27632. These inhibitors contain carboxylic ester moieties which allow inactivation by esterases. While the parent esters display strong activity in enzymatic (ROCK2) and cellular (MLC phosphorylation) assays, their corresponding carboxylic acid metabolites have negligible functional activity. Compound 32 combined strong efficacy (ROCK2 IC50=2.5 nM) with rapid inactivation in plasma (t1/2 <5'). Compound 32 also demonstrated in vivo efficacy when evaluated as an IOP-lowering agent in ocular normotensive New-Zealand White rabbits, without ocular side effects.
Keywords: Esterase; Kinase inhibitor; ROCK; SAR; Soft drug.
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