The roles of cysteine proteases (CP) as protein degrading and protein processing enzymes both in physiological and pathological processes of mammals are well known. Furthermore, the key roles of CPs in the life cycles of infectious agents like protozoa and viruses turn them into new important targets for anti-infective drugs. Thus, the effective inhibition of pathologically relevant cysteine proteases has raised increasing interest in drug development. One strategy to create CP inhibitors is the use of electrophilic moieties, which covalently bind to the cysteine residue of the active site of the target protease. In a previous approach we have selected the aziridine-2,3-dicarboxylic acid as weak electrophilic inhibitor fragment. In order to achieve effective enzyme inhibition this electrophile was incorporated into peptidic or peptidomimetic sequences addressing the substrate binding sites of the protease. High selectivity could be obtained with compounds, which bind into both the primed and non-primed substrate binding pockets. In a second approach the α,β-unsaturated ketone of the well-known diuretic drug ethacrynic acid was found to be another appropriate electrophilic moiety. Derivatives thereof turned out to be new non-peptidic CP inhibitors. Results of inhibition assays obtained with these two inhibitor series on various proteases of human, protozoan, and viral origin, theoretical studies to investigate binding modes and inhibition mechanisms, and structure-activity relationships are presented. Furthermore, the results of in vitro assays on respective pathogens as well as the results of first toxicity studies are summarized.
Keywords: Caspases, Epoxysuccinic Acid, Aspergillus japonicus, cruzain inhibitors, AZIRIDINES, FUMARATES
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