The multifunctional nature of Alzheimers disease (AD) provides the logical foundation for the development of an innovative drug design strategy centered on multi-target-directed-ligands (MTDLs). In recent years, the MTDL concept has been exploited to design different ligands hitting different biological targets. Our first rationally designed MTDL was the polyamine caproctamine (1), which provided a synergistic cholinergic action against AD by antagonizing muscarinic M2 autoreceptors and inhibiting acetylcholinesterase (AChE). Lipocrine (7) represented the next step in our research. Due to its ability to inhibit AChE catalytic and non-catalytic functions together with oxidative stress, 7 emerged as an interesting pharmacological tool for investigating the neurodegenerative mechanism underlying AD. Memoquin (9) is a quinonebearing polyamine endowed with a unique multifunctional profile. With its development, we arrived at the proof of concept of the MTDL drug discovery approach. Experiments in vitro and in vivo confirmed its multimodal mechanisms of action and its interaction with different end-points of the neurotoxic cascade leading to AD. More recently, the MTDL approach led to carbacrine (12). In addition to the multiple activities displayed by 7, 12 displayed an interesting modulation of NMDA receptor activity. The pivotal role played by this target in AD pathogenesis suggests that 12 may be a promising new chemical entity in the MTDL gold rush.
Keywords: neurodegenerative diseases, multifactorial diseases, multi-target-directed ligands (MTDLs), dual binding acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, multimodal therapeutics, multifunctional compounds, caproctamine, carbacrine