Synthesis and biological evaluation of indoloquinoline alkaloid cryptolepine and its bromo-derivative as dual cholinesterase inhibitors

Vijay K. Nuthakki, Ramesh Mudududdla, Ankita Sharma, Ajay Kumar, Sandip B. Bharate

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11 Citations (Scopus)


Alkaloids have always been a great source of cholinesterase inhibitors. Numerous studies have shown that inhibiting acetylcholinesterase as well as butyrylcholinetserase is advantageous, and have better chances of success in preclinical/ clinical settings. With the objective to discover dual cholinesterase inhibitors, herein we report synthesis and biological evaluation of indoloquinoline alkaloid cryptolepine (1) and its bromo-derivative 2. Our study has shown that cryptolepine (1) and its 2-bromo-derivative 2 are dual inhibitors of acetylcholinesterase and butyrylcholinesterase, the enzymes which are involved in blocking the process of neurotransmission. Cryptolepine inhibits Electrophorus electricus acetylcholinesterase, recombinant human acetylcholinesterase and equine serum butyrylcholinesterase with IC50 values of 267, 485 and 699 nM, respectively. The 2-bromo-derivative of cryptolepine also showed inhibition of these enzymes, with IC50 values of 415, 868 and 770 nM, respectively. The kinetic studies revealed that cryptolepine inhibits human acetylcholinesterase in a non-competitive manner, with ki value of 0.88 µM. Additionally, these alkaloids were also tested against two other important pathological events of Alzheimer's disease viz. stopping the formation of toxic amyloid-β oligomers (via inhibition of BACE-1), and increasing the amyloid-β clearance (via P-gp induction). Cryptolepine displayed potent P-gp induction activity at 100 nM, in P-gp overexpressing adenocarcinoma LS-180 cells and excellent toxicity window in LS-180 as well as in human neuroblastoma SH-SY5Y cell line. The molecular modeling studies with AChE and BChE have shown that both alkaloids were tightly packed inside the active site gorge (site 1) via multiple π-π and cation-π interactions. Both inhibitors have shown interaction with the allosteric “peripheral anionic site” via hydrophobic interactions. The ADME properties including the BBB permeability were computed for these alkaloids, and were found within the acceptable range.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103062
Number of pages13
JournalBioorganic Chemistry
Issue numberSI
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Acetylcholinesterase
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Butyrylcholinesterase
  • Cryptolepine
  • Dual cholinesterase inhibitor

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