Synthesis and enzymatic hydrolysis of esters, constituting simple models of soft drugs

Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo). 1998 Apr;46(4):591-601. doi: 10.1248/cpb.46.591.


One way to minimise systemic side effects of drugs is to design molecules, soft drugs, in such a way that they are metabolically inactivated rapidly after having acted on their pharmacological target. Hydrolases (esterases, peptidases, lipases, glycosidases, etc.) are enzymes well suited to use for drug inactivation since they are ubiquitously distributed. Insertion of ester bonds susceptible to enzymatic cleavage may represent one approach to make the action of a drug more restricted to the site of application. The present study describes the chemical synthesis of fourteen model compounds comprising a bicyclic aromatic unit connected by an ester-containing bridge to another aromatic ring. Initial attempts to define a) the tissue selectivity of the hydrolytic metabolism and b) the molecular structural factors affecting the rate of enzymatic ester cleavage are presented. The data show that human and rat liver fractions were more active than human duodenal mucosa and human blood leukocytes at hydrolysing the compounds. The rank order of the compounds was, however, very similar in the different biological systems. Commercially available pig liver carboxyl esterase and cholesterol esterase both reasonably well predict the rank order in the tissue fractions.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bridged Bicyclo Compounds / chemical synthesis
  • Carboxylesterase
  • Carboxylic Ester Hydrolases / chemistry*
  • Drug Design
  • Duodenum / enzymology
  • Esters / chemical synthesis*
  • Esters / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Hydrolysis
  • Leukocytes / enzymology
  • Liver / enzymology
  • Models, Structural
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / chemistry*
  • Rats
  • Sterol Esterase / chemistry*
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Swine


  • Bridged Bicyclo Compounds
  • Esters
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations
  • Carboxylic Ester Hydrolases
  • Carboxylesterase
  • Sterol Esterase