Optimization of BAX trigger site activator BTSA1 with improved antitumor potency and in vitro ADMET properties

Eur J Med Chem. 2023 Feb 15:248:115076. doi: 10.1016/j.ejmech.2022.115076. Epub 2023 Jan 10.


Direct activation of the pro-apoptotic protein BAX represents a potential therapeutic strategy to trigger apoptosis in cancer. Herein, structural optimization of the reported BAX trigger site activator BTSA1 turned out into a series of pyrazolone derivatives, where compound 6d exhibited significantly enhanced antiproliferative effects and apoptosis induction ability compared to BTSA1. Mechanism of action studies revealed that compound 6d could initiate the BAX activation cascade, promoting BAX insertion into mitochondrial membranes and activating MOMP, ultimately leading to the release of cytochrome c and apoptosis. Furthermore, 6d showed significantly improved in vitro stability and CYPs profile compared to BTSA1. This work may lay a foundation to develop potent BAX trigger site activators for the treatment of BAX-expressing malignancies.

Keywords: Anti-tumor agents; Apoptosis; BAX; Trigger site.

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins / metabolism
  • Apoptosis* / physiology
  • Cytochromes c / metabolism
  • Mitochondrial Membranes* / metabolism
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein / metabolism


  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein
  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins
  • Cytochromes c