Diprovocims: A New and Exceptionally Potent Class of Toll-like Receptor Agonists

J Am Chem Soc. 2018 Oct 31;140(43):14440-14454. doi: 10.1021/jacs.8b09223. Epub 2018 Oct 16.


A screen conducted with nearly 100000 compounds and a surrogate functional assay for stimulation of an immune response that measured the release of TNF-α from treated human THP-1 myeloid cells differentiated along the macrophage line led to the discovery of the diprovocims. Unique to these efforts and of special interest, the screening leads for this new class of activators of an immune response came from a compound library designed to promote cell-surface receptor dimerization. Subsequent comprehensive structure-activity relationship studies improved the potency 800-fold over that of the screening leads, providing diprovocim-1 and diprovocim-2. The diprovocims act by inducing cell-surface toll-like receptor (TLR)-2 dimerization and activation with TLR1 (TLR1/TLR2 agonist), bear no structural similarity to any known natural or synthetic TLR agonist, and are easy to prepare and synthetically modify, and selected members are active in both human and murine systems. The most potent diprovocim (3, diprovocim-1) elicits full agonist activity at extraordinarily low concentrations (EC50 = 110 pM) in human THP-1 cells, being more potent than the naturally derived TLR1/TLR2 agonist Pam3CSK4 or any other known small molecule TLR agonist.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / chemical synthesis
  • Antineoplastic Agents / chemistry
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Drug Screening Assays, Antitumor
  • Humans
  • Melanoma, Experimental / drug therapy*
  • Melanoma, Experimental / pathology
  • Mice
  • Molecular Conformation
  • THP-1 Cells
  • Toll-Like Receptor 1 / agonists*
  • Toll-Like Receptor 2 / agonists*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Toll-Like Receptor 1
  • Toll-Like Receptor 2