Aldo-keto reductase 1C3 (AKR1C3), also known as type 5 17β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase, is a downstream steroidogenic enzyme and converts androgen precursors to the potent androgen receptor ligands: testosterone and 5α-dihydrotestosterone. Studies have shown that AKR1C3 is involved in the development of castration resistant prostate cancer (CRPC) and that it is a rational drug target for the treatment of CRPC. Baccharin, a component of Brazilian propolis, has been observed to exhibit a high inhibitory potency and selectivity for AKR1C3 over other AKR1C isoforms and is a promising lead compound for developing more potent and selective inhibitors. Here, we report the screening of fifteen baccharin analogs as selective inhibitors against AKR1C3 versus AKR1C2 (type 3 3α-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase). Among these analogs, the inhibitory activity and selectivity of thirteen compounds were evaluated for the first time. The substitution of the 4-dihydrocinnamoyloxy group of baccharin by an acetate group displayed nanomolar inhibitory potency (IC50: 440 nM) and a 102-fold selectivity over AKR1C2. By contrast, when the cinnamic acid group of baccharin was esterified, there was a dramatic decrease in potency and selectivity for AKR1C3 in comparison to baccharin. Low or sub-micromolar inhibition was observed when the 3-prenyl group of baccharin was removed, and the selectivity over AKR1C2 was low. Although unsubstituted baccharin was still the most potent (IC50: 100 nM) and selective inhibitor for AKR1C3, these data provide structure-activity relationships required for the optimization of new baccharin analogs. They suggest that the carboxylate group on cinnamic acid, the prenyl group, and either retention of 4-dihydrocinnamoyloxy group or acetate substituent on cinnamic acid are important to maintain the high potency and selectivity for AKR1C3.
Keywords: Androgen; Androgen receptor signaling; Castration resistant prostate cancer.
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