We screened a short series of new chiral diphenylmethane derivatives and identified potent dual PPARα/γ partial agonists. As both enantiomers of the most active compound 1 displayed an unexpected similar transactivation activity, we performed docking experiments to provide a molecular understanding of their similar partial agonism. We also evaluated the ability of both enantiomers of 1 and racemic 2 to inhibit colorectal cancer cells proliferation: (S)-1 displayed a more robust activity due, at least in part, to a partial inhibition of the Wnt/β-catenin signalling pathway that is upregulated in the majority of colorectal cancers. Finally, we investigated the effects of (R)-1, (S)-1 and (R,S)-2 on mitochondrial function and demonstrated that they activate the carnitine shuttle system through upregulation of carnitine/acylcarnitine carrier (CAC) and carnitine-palmitoyl-transferase 1 (CPT1) genes. Consistent with the notion that these are PPARα target genes, we tested and found that PPARα itself is regulated by a positive loop. Moreover, these compounds induced a significant mitochondrial biogenesis. In conclusion, we identified a new series of dual PPARα/γ agonists endowed with novel anti-proliferative properties associated with a strong activation of mitochondrial functions and biogenesis, a potential therapeutic target of the treatment of insulin resistance.
Keywords: Anti-proliferative effects; Docking experiments; Gene expression analysis; Mitochondrial biogenesis; PPAR.
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