Podophyllotoxin derivatives like etoposide 7a, etophos 7b, and teniposide 7c are used clinically as potent chemotherapeutic agents for a variety of tumors including small cell lung carcinoma, testicular cancer, and malignant lymphoma. These compounds derived from a series of modifications which converted podophyllotoxin 1a from an entity that interacted with tubulin and blocks mitosis to one that induced a block in late S or early G2 by interacting with topoisomerase II. Synthetic studies on podophyllotoxin derivatives can be divided in four general approaches (the oxo-ester route, the dihydroxy acid route, the tandem conjugate addition route and the Diels-Alder route). Albeit a number of synthetic sequences afforded products with excellent enantiopurities, the low overall yields still disqualify synthesis as an alternative for naturally produced materials. An alternative route based on the enzyme-catalyzed cyclization of synthetic intermediates to analogues of the podophyllotoxin family is being explored. Synthetic dibenzylbutanolides, which were revealed by biosynthetic studies to be the precursors of aryltetralin lignans, have been treated with enzymes derived from cell cultures of Podophyllum peltatum, Catharanthus roseus, Nicotiana sylvestris and Cassia didymobotrya. The ciclyzation process afforded however compounds with a different stereochemistry in the C ring. The obtainment of a novel compound with a benzylidenebenzylbutirolactone structure still leaves considerable scope for exploring biotransformations in order to obtain podophyllotoxin analogues via a combination of synthetic chemistry and biotechnological methods.
Keywords: aryltetralin lignans, podophyllotoxin derivatives, chemotherapeutic agents, tumors, cell lung carcinoma, testicular cancer, malignant lymphoma, topoisomerase II, podophyllum peltatum, catharanthus roseus, nicotiana sylvestris
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