Discovery of orally effective and safe GPR40 agonists by incorporating a chiral, rigid and polar sulfoxide into β-position to the carboxylic acid

Cheng Chen, Shi Meng Guo, Yuanjun Sun, He Li, Nan Hu, Kun Yao, Huxin Ni, Zhikan Xia, Bin Xu, Xin Xie*, Ya Qiu Long*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

GPR40 is primarily expressed in pancreatic islet β-cells, and its activation by endogenous ligands of medium to long-chain free fatty acids or synthetic agonists is clinically proved to improve glycemic control by stimulating glucose-dependent insulin secretion. However, most of the reported agonists are highly lipophilic, which might cause lipotoxicity and the off-target effects in CNS. Particularly, the withdrawal of TAK-875 from clinical trials phase III due to liver toxicity concern threw doubt over the long-term safety of targeting GPR40. Improving the efficacy and the selectivity, thus enlarging the therapeutic window would provide an alternative to develop safe GPR40-targeted therapeutics. Herein, by employing an innovative “three-in-one” pharmacophore drug design strategy, the optimal structural features for GPR40 agonist was integrated into one functional group of sulfoxide, which was incorporated into the β-position of the propanoic acid core pharmacophore. As a result, the conformational constraint, polarity as well as chirality endowed by the sulfoxide significantly enhanced the efficacy, selectivity and ADMET properties of the novel (S)- 2-(phenylsulfinyl)acetic acid-based GPR40 agonists. The lead compounds (S)-4a and (S)-4s exhibited robust plasma glucose-lowering effects and insulinotropic action during an oral glucose tolerance test in C57/BL6 mice, excellent pharmacokinetic profile and little hepatobiliary transporter inhibition, marginal cell toxicities against human primary hepatocyte at 100 μM.

Original languageEnglish
Article number115267
JournalEuropean Journal of Medicinal Chemistry
Volume251
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 5 May 2023
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • 2-(phenylsulfinyl)acetic acid
  • GPR40
  • Glucose-stimulated insulin secretion
  • Lipophilicity
  • Liver safety
  • Three-in-one pharmacophore
  • Type 2 diabetes mellitus

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