Synthesis and Biological Validation of a Harmine-Based, Central Nervous System (CNS)-Avoidant, Selective, Human β-Cell Regenerative Dual-Specificity Tyrosine Phosphorylation-Regulated Kinase A (DYRK1A) Inhibitor

J Med Chem. 2020 Mar 26;63(6):2986-3003. doi: 10.1021/acs.jmedchem.9b01379. Epub 2020 Feb 19.


Recently, our group identified that harmine is able to induce β-cell proliferation both in vitro and in vivo, mediated via the DYRK1A-NFAT pathway. Since, harmine suffers from a lack of selectivity, both against other kinases and CNS off-targets, we therefore sought to expand structure-activity relationships for harmine's DYRK1A activity, to enhance selectivity for off-targets while retaining human β-cell proliferation activity. We carried out optimization of the 9-N-position of harmine to synthesize 29 harmine-based analogs. Several novel inhibitors showed excellent DYRK1A inhibition and human β-cell proliferation capability. An optimized DYRK1A inhibitor, 2-2c, was identified as a novel, efficacious in vivo lead candidate. 2-2c also demonstrates improved selectivity for kinases and CNS off-targets, as well as in vivo efficacy for β-cell proliferation and regeneration at lower doses than harmine. Collectively, these findings demonstrate that 2-2c is a much improved in vivo lead candidate as compared to harmine for the treatment of diabetes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Harmine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Harmine / chemical synthesis
  • Harmine / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / cytology
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / drug effects*
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Molecular Docking Simulation
  • Nervous System / drug effects
  • Nervous System / metabolism
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / chemical synthesis
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / chemistry*
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / metabolism
  • Rats, Wistar


  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • Harmine
  • Dyrk kinase
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases