Recently there has been a growing interest in covalent protease inhibitors in both industry and academia, caused by their longer residence times, their higher potency and their high ligand efficiency. Covalently reactive moieties which interact with activated amino acid residues such as serine or cysteine in enzymes like proteases or esterases mostly act through nucleophilic addition, substitution or ring opening. In contrast, nucleophilic aromatic substitution (SNAr) is rarely employed. In our previous work, we prepared and investigated electrophilic “warheads”, which contain aromatic, heteroaromatic or quinoid fragments. Some of them show potent inhibition constants for cathepsin L, cathepsin B, rhodesain or dengue-protease, and depending on the exact nature of the electrophile they exhibit reversible covalent or irreversible inhibition modes. In the present work, we demonstrate the synthesis of fluorescent “warhead” candidates based on 2,1,3-benzoxadiazoles and the investigation of their physicochemical and photophysical properties. These molecules shall serve as probes for the detailed analysis of association/dissociation mechanism and of the kinetic parameters of the bond forming event.
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