A fluorine scan of a tubulin polymerization inhibitor isocombretastatin A-4: Design, synthesis, molecular modelling, and biological evaluation

Eur J Med Chem. 2018 Jan 1;143:473-490. doi: 10.1016/j.ejmech.2017.11.055. Epub 2017 Dec 2.


A novel series of tubulin polymerization inhibitors, based on fluorinated derivatives of isocombretastatin A-4 was synthesized with the goal of evaluating the effect of these compounds on the proliferative activity. The introduction of fluorine atom was performed on the phenyl ring or at the linker between the two aromatic rings. The modification of isoCA-4 by introduction of difluoromethoxy group at the para-position (3i) and substitution of the two protons of the linker by two fluorine atoms (3m), produced the most active compounds in the series, with IC50 values of 0.15-2.2 nM (3i) and 0.1-2 nM (3m) respectively, against a panel of six cancer cell lines. Compounds 3i and 3m had greater antiproliferative activity in comparison with references CA-4 or isoCA-4, the presence of fluorine group leads to a significant enhancement of the antiproliferative activity. Molecular docking studies indicated that compounds 3i and 3m occupy the colchicine binding site of tubulin. Evaluation of cytotoxicity in Human noncancer cells indicated that the compounds 3i and 3m were practically ineffective in quiescent peripheral blood lymphocytes, and may have a selective antiproliferative activity against cancer cells. Analyses of cell cycle distribution, and morphological microtubules organization showed that compound 3m induced G2/M phase arrest and, dramatically disrupted the microtubule network.

Keywords: Cancer; Cytotoxic; Fluorinated analogs; Tubulin inhibitors; isoCA-4.

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / chemical synthesis
  • Antineoplastic Agents / chemistry
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Design*
  • Drug Screening Assays, Antitumor
  • Fluorine / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Structure
  • Polymerization / drug effects
  • Stilbenes / chemical synthesis
  • Stilbenes / chemistry
  • Stilbenes / pharmacology*
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Tubulin / metabolism*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Stilbenes
  • Tubulin
  • Fluorine
  • fosbretabulin