Multitargeting or polypharmacological approaches, looking for single chemical entities retaining the ability to bind two or more molecular targets, are a potentially powerful strategy to fight complex, multifactorial pathologies. Unfortunately, the search for multiligand agents is challenging because only a small subset of molecules contained in molecular databases are bioactive and even fewer are active on a preselected set of multiple targets. However, collections of natural compounds feature a significantly higher fraction of bioactive molecules than synthetic ones. In this view, we searched our library of 1175 natural compounds from marine sources for molecules including a 2-aminoimidazole+aromatic group motif, found in known compounds active on single relevant targets for Alzheimer’s disease (AD). This identified two molecules, a pseudozoanthoxanthin (1) and a bromo-pyrrole alkaloid (2), which were predicted by a computational approach to possess interesting multitarget profiles on AD target proteins. Biochemical assays experimentally confirmed their biological activities. The two compounds inhibit acetylcholinesterase, butyrylcholinesterase, and β-secretase enzymes in high- to sub-micromolar range. They are also able to prevent and revert β-amyloid (Aβ) aggregation of both Aβ1-40 and Aβ1-42 peptides, with 1 being more active than 2. Preliminary in vivo studies suggest that compound 1 is able to restore cholinergic cortico-hippocampal functional connectivity.
This research work was supported by a grant from MIUR-ITALY PRIN2015 “Top-down and bottom-up approach in the development of new bioactive chemical entities inspired on natural products scaffolds” (Project No. 2015MSCKCE_003) to M.G. and M.L.C., by Alzheimer’s Association Grant NIRG-14-321500 to T.F., and by the University of Naples “Parthenope”, “Bando per la ricerca individuale” to M.M. and R.A.