Bivalent and polyvalent inhibitors can be used as antitumor agents. In this experiment, eight ligustrazine dimers and seven ligustrazine tetramers linked by alkane diamine with different lengths of carbon chain lengths were synthesized. After screening their antiproliferation activities against five cancer cell lines, most ligustrazine derivatives showed better cytotoxicity than the ligustrazine monomer. In particular, ligustrazine dimer 8e
linked with decane-1,10-diamine exhibited the highest cytotoxicity in FaDu cells with an IC50
(50% inhibiting concentration) value of 1.36 nM. Further mechanism studies suggested that 8e
could induce apoptosis of FaDu cells through the depolarization of mitochondrial membrane potential and S-phase cell cycle arrest. Inspired by these results, twenty-seven additional small molecule heterocyclic dimers linked with decane-1,10-diamine and nine cinnamic acid dimers bearing ether chain were synthesized and screened. Most monocyclic and bicyclic aromatic systems showed highly selective anti-proliferation activity to FaDu cells and low toxicity to normal MCF 10A cells. The structure-activity relationship revealed that the two terminal amide bonds and the alkyl linker with a chain length of 8–12 carbon were two important factors to maintain its antitumor activity. In addition, the ADMET calculation predicted that most of the potent compounds had good oral bioavailability.
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