Identification and characterization of a novel class of c-Jun N-terminal kinase inhibitors

Igor A. Schepetkin, Liliya N. Kirpotina, Andrey Ivanovich Khlebnikov, Tracey S. Hanks, Irina Kochetkova, David W. Pascual, Mark A. Jutila, Mark T. Quinn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


In efforts to identify novel small molecules with anti-inflammatory properties, we discovered a unique series of tetracyclic indenoquinoxaline derivatives that inhibited lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced nuclear factor-κB/activating protein 1 activation. Compound IQ-1 (11H-indeno[1,2-b]quinoxalin-11-one oxime) was found to be a potent, noncytotoxic inhibitor of pro-inflammatory cytokine [interleukin (IL)-1α, IL-1β, IL-6, IL-10, tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α, interferon-γ, and granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor] and nitric oxide production by human and murine monocyte/macrophages. Three additional potent inhibitors of cytokine production were identified through further screening of IQ-1 analogs. The sodium salt of IQ-1 inhibited LPS-induced TNF-α and IL-6 production in MonoMac-6 cells with IC 50 values of 0.25 and 0.61 μM, respectively. Screening of 131 protein kinases revealed that derivative IQ-3 [11H-indeno[1,2-b]quinoxalin-11-one-O-(2-furoyl)oxime]was a specific inhibitor of the c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) family, with preference for JNK3. This compound, as well as IQ-1 and three additional oxime indenoquinoxalines, were found to be high-affinity JNK inhibitors with nanomolar binding affinity and ability to inhibit c-Jun phosphorylation. Furthermore, docking studies showed that hydrogen bonding interactions of the active indenoquinoxalines with Asn152, Gln155, and Met149 of JNK3 played an important role in enzyme binding activity. Finally, we showed that the sodium salt of IQ-1 had favorable pharmacokinetics and inhibited the ovalbumin-induced CD4 + T-cell immune response in a murine delayed-type hypersensitivity model in vivo. We conclude that compounds with an indenoquinoxaline nucleus can serve as specific small-molecule modulators for mechanistic studies of JNKs as well as a potential leads for the development of anti-inflammatory drugs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)832-845
Number of pages14
JournalMolecular Pharmacology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Molecular Medicine

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