Synthesis and Development of a Novel First-in-Class Cofilin Inhibitor for Neuroinflammation in Hemorrhagic Brain Injury

ACS Chem Neurosci. 2022 Apr 6;13(7):1014-1029. doi: 10.1021/acschemneuro.2c00010. Epub 2022 Mar 18.


Intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH) is devastating among stroke types with high mortality. To date, not a single therapeutic intervention has been successful. Cofilin plays a critical role in inflammation and cell death. In the current study, we embarked on designing and synthesizing a first-in-class small-molecule inhibitor of cofilin to target secondary complications of ICH, mainly neuroinflammation. A series of compounds were synthesized, and two lead compounds SZ-3 and SK-1-32 were selected for further studies. Neuronal and microglial viabilities were assessed by 3-[4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl]-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide (MTT) assay using neuroblastoma (SHSY-5Y) and human microglial (HMC-3) cell lines, respectively. Lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced inflammation in HMC-3 cells was used for neurotoxicity assay. Other assays include nitric oxide (NO) by Griess reagent, cofilin inhibition by F-actin depolymerization, migration by scratch wound assay, tumor necrosis factor (TNF-α) by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), protease-activated receptor-1 (PAR-1) by immunocytochemistry and Western blotting (WB), and protein expression levels of several proteins by WB. SK-1-32 increased neuronal/microglial survival, reduced NO, and prevented neurotoxicity. However, SZ-3 showed no effect on neuronal/microglial survival but prevented microglia from LPS-induced inflammation by decreasing NO and preventing neurotoxicity. Therefore, we selected SZ-3 for further molecular studies, as it showed potent anti-inflammatory activities. SZ-3 decreased cofilin severing activity, and its treatment of LPS-activated HMC-3 cells attenuated microglial activation and suppressed migration and proliferation. HMC-3 cells subjected to thrombin, as an in vitro model for hemorrhagic stroke, and treated with SZ-3 after 3 h showed significantly decreased NO and TNF-α, significantly increased protein expression of phosphocofilin, and decreased PAR-1. In addition, SZ-3-treated SHSY-5Y showed a significant increase in cell viability by significantly reducing nuclear factor-κ B (NF-κB), caspase-3, and high-temperature requirement (HtrA2). Together, our results support the novel idea of targeting cofilin to counter neuroinflammation during secondary injury following ICH.

Keywords: anti-inflammatory agent; brain injury; cofilin inhibitor; microglial activation; neuroinflammation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Actin Depolymerizing Factors* / metabolism
  • Actin Depolymerizing Factors* / pharmacology
  • Brain Injuries* / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Lipopolysaccharides / toxicity
  • Microglia
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism
  • Neuroinflammatory Diseases


  • Actin Depolymerizing Factors
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • NF-kappa B