Metabolites of febrifugine and its synthetic analogue by mouse liver S9 and their antimalarial activity against Plasmodium malaria parasite

Shingo Hirai, Haruhisa Kikuchi, Hye Sook Kim, Khurshida Begum, Yusuke Wataya, Hidehisa Tasaka, Yuriko Miyazawa, Keisuke Yamamoto, Yoshiteru Oshima

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70 Citations (Scopus)


Quinazolinone type alkaloids, febrifugine (1) and isofebrifugine (2), isolated from Dichroa febrifuga roots, show powerful antimalarial activity against Plasmodium falciparum. Unfortunately, their emetic effect and other undesirable side effects have precluded their clinical use for malaria. Because of their antimalarial potency, analogues were searched for, with the goal of preserving the strong antimalarial activity, while dramatically reducing side effects. We expected that compounds useful in drug development would exist in metabolites derived from 1 and Df-1 (3), the condensation product of 1 with acetone, by mouse liver S9. Feb-A and -B (4 and 5) were isolated as the major metabolites of 1. In addition to 4 and 5, feb-C and -D (6 and 7) were also purified from the metabolic mixture of 3. Compounds 4 and 5 were compounds oxidized at C-6 and C-2 of the quinazolinone ring of 1, respectively. Compounds 6 and 7, derived from 3, also bear febrifugine type structures in which the 4″- and 6″-positions of the piperidine ring of 1 were oxidized. In vitro antimalarial and cytotoxic tests using synthetically obtained racemic 4-6 and enantiomerically pure 7 demonstrated that 4 and 6 had antimalarial activity against P. falciparum, of similar potency to that of 1, with high selectivity. The antimalarial activity of 5 and 7, however, was dramatically decreased in the test. The in vitro antimalarial activity of analogues 22 and 43, which are stereoisomers of 4 and 6, was also evaluated, showing that 22 is active. The results suggest that basicity of both the 1- and the 1″-nitrogen atoms of 1 is crucial in conferring powerful antimalarial activity. Racemic 4 and 6 exhibited powerful in vivo antimalarial activity against mouse malaria P. berghei, and especially, no serious side effects were observed with 4. Thus, the metabolite 4 appears to be a promising lead compound for the development of new types of antimalarial drugs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4351-4359
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Medicinal Chemistry
Issue number20
Publication statusPublished - 2003 Sept 25
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Drug Discovery


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