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Synthesis, Stereochemical Analysis, and Derivatization of Myricanol Provide New Probes That Promote Autophagic Tau Clearance

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journal contribution
posted on 17.04.2015, 00:00 by Mackenzie D. Martin, Laurent Calcul, Courtney Smith, Umesh K. Jinwal, Sarah N. Fontaine, April Darling, Kent Seeley, Lukasz Wojtas, Malathi Narayan, Jason E. Gestwicki, Garry R. Smith, Allen B. Reitz, Bill J. Baker, Chad A. Dickey
We previously discovered that one specific scalemic preparation of myricanol (1), a constituent of Myrica cerifera (bayberry/southern wax myrtle) root bark, could lower the levels of the microtubule-associated protein tau (MAPT). The significance is that tau accumulates in a number of neurodegenerative diseases, the most common being Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Herein, a new synthetic route to prepare myricanol using a suitable boronic acid pinacol ester intermediate is reported. An X-ray crystal structure of the isolated myricanol (1) was obtained and showed a co-crystal consisting of (+)-aR,11S-myricanol (2) and (−)-aS,11R-myricanol (3) coformers. Surprisingly, 3, obtained from chiral separation from 1, reduced tau levels in both cultured cells and ex vivo brain slices from a mouse model of tauopathy at reasonable mid-to-low micromolar potency, whereas 2 did not. SILAC proteomics and cell assays revealed that 3 promoted tau degradation through an autophagic mechanism, which was in contrast to that of other tau-lowering compounds previously identified by our group. During the course of structure–activity relationship (SAR) development, we prepared compound 13 by acid-catalyzed dehydration of 1. 13 had undergone an unexpected structural rearrangement through the isomyricanol substitution pattern (e.g., 16), as verified by X-ray structural analysis. Compound 13 displayed robust tau-lowering activity, and, importantly, its enantiomers reduced tau levels similarly. Therefore, the semisynthetic analogue 13 provides a foundation for further development as a tau-lowering agent without its SAR being based on chirality.

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