Acetylene Group, Friend or Foe in Medicinal Chemistry

J Med Chem. 2020 Jun 11;63(11):5625-5663. doi: 10.1021/acs.jmedchem.9b01617. Epub 2020 Feb 19.


The use of an acetylene (ethynyl) group in medicinal chemistry coincides with the launch of the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry in 1959. Since then, the acetylene group has been broadly exploited in drug discovery and development. As a result, it has become recognized as a privileged structural feature for targeting a wide range of therapeutic target proteins, including MAO, tyrosine kinases, BACE1, steroid receptors, mGlu5 receptors, FFA1/GPR40, and HIV-1 RT. Furthermore, a terminal alkyne functionality is frequently introduced in chemical biology probes as a click handle to identify molecular targets and to assess target engagement. This Perspective is divided into three parts encompassing: (1) the physicochemical properties of the ethynyl group, (2) the advantages and disadvantages of the ethynyl group in medicinal chemistry, and (3) the impact of the ethynyl group on chemical biology approaches.