Design, Selection, and Characterization of Thioflavin-Based Intercalation Compounds with Metal Chelating Properties for Application in Alzheimer’s Disease

Metal chelation is considered a rational therapeutic approach for interdicting Alzheimer’s amyloid pathogenesis. At present, enhancing the targeting and efficacy of metal-ion chelating agents through ligand design is a main strategy in the development of the next generation of metal chelators. Inspired by the traditional dye Thioflavin-T, we have designed new multifunctional molecules that contain both amyloid binding and metal chelating properties. In silico techniques have enabled us to identify commercial compounds that enclose the designed molecular framework (M1), include potential antioxidant properties, facilitate the formation of iodine-labeled derivatives, and can be permeable through the blood−brain barrier. Iodination reactions of the selected compounds, 2-(2-hydroxyphenyl)benzoxazole (HBX), 2-(2-hydroxyphenyl)benzothiazole (HBT), and 2-(2-aminophenyl)-1H-benzimidazole (BM), have led to the corresponding iodinated derivatives HBXI, HBTI, and BMI, which have been characterized by X-ray diffraction. The chelating properties of the latter compounds toward Cu(II) and Zn(II) have been examined in the solid phase and in solution. The acidity constants of HBXI, HBTI, and BMI and the formation constants of the corresponding ML and ML2 complexes [M = Cu(II), Zn(II)] have been determined by UV−vis pH titrations. The calculated values for the overall formation constants for the ML2 complexes indicate the suitability of the HBXI, HBTI, and BMI ligands for sequestering Cu(II) and Zn(II) metal ions present in freshly prepared solutions of β-amyloid (Aβ) peptide. This was confirmed by Aβ aggregation studies showing that these compounds are able to arrest the metal-promoted increase in amyloid fibril buildup. The fluorescence features of HBX, HBT, BM, and the corresponding iodinated derivatives, together with fluorescence microscopy studies on two types of pregrown fibrils, have shown that HBX and HBT compounds could behave as potential markers for the presence of amyloid fibrils, whereas HBXI and HBTI may be especially suitable for radioisotopic detection of Aβ deposits. Taken together, the results reported in this work show the potential of new multifunctional thioflavin-based chelating agents as Alzheimer’s disease therapeutics.