Fascaplysin Derivatives Are Potent Multitarget Agents against Alzheimer’s Disease: in Vitro and in Vivo Evidence

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is characterized by progressive neurodegeneration and impaired cognitive functions. Fascaplysin is a β-carboline alkaloid isolated from marine sponge Fascaplysinopsis bergquist in 1988. Previous studies have shown that fascaplysin might act on acetylcholinesterase and β-amyloid (Aβ) to produce anti-AD properties. In this study, a series of fascaplysin derivatives were synthesized. The cholinesterase inhibition activities, the neuronal protective effects, and the toxicities of these compounds were evaluated in vitro. Compounds 2a and 2b, the two most powerful compounds in vitro, were further selected to evaluate their cognitive-enhancing effects in animals. Both 2a and 2b could ameliorate cognitive dysfunction induced by scopolamine or Aβ oligomers without affecting locomotor functions in mice. We also found that 2a and 2b could prevent cholinergic dysfunctions, decrease pro-inflammatory cytokine expression, and inhibit Aβ-induced tau hyperphosphorylation in vivo. Most importantly, pharmacodynamics studies suggested that 2b could penetrate the blood–brain barrier and be retained in the central nervous system. All these results suggested that fascaplysin derivatives are potent multitarget agents against AD and might be clinical useful for AD treatment.