The mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAP) kinase 4 (MKK4) was found to be a major regulator of liver regeneration and could be a valuable drug target addressing liver related diseases by restoring its intrinsic regenerative capacity. We report on the synthesis and optimization of novel MKK4 inhibitors following a target-hopping strategy from the FDA-approved BRAFV600E inhibitor PLX4032 (8). Applying an iterative multi-parameter optimization process we carved out essential structural features yielding in compounds with a low nanomolar affinity for MKK4 and excellent selectivity profiles against the main off-targets MKK7 and JNK1, which, upon relevant inhibition, would totally abrogate the pro-regenerative effect of MKK4 inhibition, as well as against the off-targets MAP4K5, ZAK and BRAF with selectivity factors ranging from 40 to 430 for our best-balanced compounds 70 and 73.
Keywords: Acute and chronic liver failure; Inhibitors; Liver failure; Liver regeneration; MEK4; MKK4; NAFLD; NASH; Vemurafenib.
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