Tackling neuroinflammation and cholinergic deficit in Alzheimer's disease: Multi-target inhibitors of cholinesterases, cyclooxygenase-2 and 15-lipoxygenase

Eur J Med Chem. 2019 Apr 1:167:161-186. doi: 10.1016/j.ejmech.2019.02.012. Epub 2019 Feb 8.


Neuroinflammation and cholinergic deficit are key detrimental processes involved in Alzheimer's disease. Hence, in the search for novel and effective treatment strategies, the multi-target-directed ligand paradigm was applied to the rational design of two series of new hybrids endowed with anti-inflammatory and anticholinesterase activity via triple targeting properties, namely able to simultaneously hit cholinesterases, cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) and 15-lipoxygenase (15-LOX) enzymes. Among the synthesized compounds, triazoles 5b and 5d, and thiosemicarbazide hybrid 6e emerged as promising new hits, being able to effectively inhibit human butyrylcholinesterase (hBChE), COX-2 and 15-LOX enzymes with a higher inhibitory potency than the reference inhibitors tacrine (for hBChE inhibition), celecoxib (for COX-2 inhibition) and both NDGA and Zileuton (for 15-LOX inhibition). In addition, compound 6e proved to be a submicromolar mixed-type inhibitor of human acetylcholinesterase (hAChE). The anti-neuroinflammatory activity of the three most promising hybrids was confirmed in a cell-based assay using PC12 neuron cells, showing decreased expression levels of inflammatory cytokines IL-1β and TNF-α. Importantly, despite the structural resemblance to tacrine, they showed ideal safety profiles on hepatic and murine brain cell lines and were safe up to 100 μM when assayed in PC12 cells. All three hybrids were also predicted to have superior BBB permeability than tacrine in the PAMPA assay, and good physicochemical properties, drug-likeness and ligand efficiency indices. Finally, molecular docking studies highlighted key structural elements impacting selectivity and activity toward the selected target enzymes. To the best of our knowledge, compounds 5b, 5d and 6e are the first balanced, safe and multi-target compounds hitting the disease at the three mentioned hubs.

Keywords: 15-lipoxygenase; Acetylcholinesterase; Alzheimer's disease; Butyrylcholinesterase; Cyclooxygenase-2.

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholine / deficiency*
  • Alzheimer Disease / drug therapy*
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology
  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Cholinesterase Inhibitors / chemistry
  • Cyclooxygenase 2 Inhibitors / chemistry
  • Drug Design
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / drug therapy*
  • Lipoxygenase Inhibitors / chemistry
  • Mice
  • Molecular Docking Simulation
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / enzymology
  • Neurons / pathology*
  • PC12 Cells
  • Rats
  • Semicarbazides / chemistry
  • Semicarbazides / pharmacology
  • Triazoles / chemistry
  • Triazoles / pharmacology


  • Cholinesterase Inhibitors
  • Cyclooxygenase 2 Inhibitors
  • Lipoxygenase Inhibitors
  • Semicarbazides
  • Triazoles
  • thiosemicarbazide
  • Acetylcholine