Targeted screening using the MTT cell viability test with a mini-library of natural and synthetic 1,4-naphthoquinones and their derivatives was performed in order to increase the survival of Neuro-2a neuroblastoma cells in in vitro paraquat and 6-hydroxydopamine models of Parkinson's disease. As a result, 10 compounds were selected that could protect neuronal cells from the cytotoxic effects of both paraquat and 6-hydroxydopamine. The five most active compounds at low concentrations were found to significantly protect the activity of nonspecific esterase from the inhibitory effects of neurotoxins, defend cell biomembranes from lytic destruction in the presence of paraquat and 6-hydroxydopamine, and normalize the cell cycle. The protective effects of these compounds are associated with the suppression of oxidative stress, decreased expression of reactive oxygen species and nitric oxide formation in cells and normalization of mitochondrial function, and restoration of the mitochondrial membrane potential altered by neurotoxins. It was suggested that the neuroprotective activity of the studied 1,4-NQs is attributable to their pronounced antioxidant and free radical scavenging activity and their ability to reduce the amount of reactive oxygen species formed by paraquat and 6-hydroxydopamine action on neuronal cells. The significant correlation between the neuroprotective properties of 1,4-naphthoquinones and Quantitative Structure-Activity Relationship descriptors describing the physicochemical properties of these compounds means that the hydrophobicity, polarity, charge, and shape of the molecules can be of decisive importance in determining the biological activity of studied substances.
Keywords: 1,4-naphthoquinones; 6-hydroxydopamine; Parkinson’s disease; cell cycle; cell viability; mitochondrial membrane potential; neuronal cells; neuroprotection; neurotoxicity; paraquat; reactive oxygen species and nitric oxide production.