A fragment-based approach towards the discovery of N-substituted tropinones as inhibitors of Mycobacterium tuberculosis transcriptional regulator EthR2

Eur J Med Chem. 2019 Apr 1;167:426-438. doi: 10.1016/j.ejmech.2019.02.023. Epub 2019 Feb 10.


Tuberculosis (TB) caused by the pathogen Mycobacterium tuberculosis, represents one of the most challenging threat to public health worldwide, and with the increasing resistance to approved TB drugs, it is needed to develop new strategies to address this issue. Ethionamide is one of the most widely used drugs for the treatment of multidrug-resistant TB. It is a prodrug that requires activation by mycobacterial monooxygenases to inhibit the enoyl-ACP reductase InhA, which is involved in mycolic acid biosynthesis. Very recently, we identified that inhibition of a transcriptional repressor, termed EthR2, derepresses a new bioactivation pathway that results in the boosting of ethionamide activation. Herein, we describe the identification of potent EthR2 inhibitors using fragment-based screening and structure-based optimization. A target-based screening of a fragment library using thermal shift assay followed by X-ray crystallography identified 5 hits. Rapid optimization of the tropinone chemical series led to compounds with improved in vitro potency.

Keywords: EthR2; Ethionamide; Fragment-based drug design; Tropinone; Tuberculosis.

MeSH terms

  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical / methods
  • Ethionamide / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / chemistry
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / drug effects*
  • Repressor Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Tropanes / chemical synthesis
  • Tropanes / pharmacology*


  • EthR protein, Mycobacterium tuberculosis
  • Repressor Proteins
  • Tropanes
  • 3-tropinone
  • Ethionamide