Design, synthesis and in-vitro biological evaluation of antofine and tylophorine prodrugs as hypoxia-targeted anticancer agents
20/10/42 Phenanthroindolizidines, such as antofine and tylophorine, are a family of natural alkaloids isolated from different species of Asclepiadaceas. They are characterized by interesting biological activities, such as pronounced cytotoxicity against different human cancerous cell lines, including multidrug-resistant examples. Nonetheless, these derivatives are associated with severe neurotoxicity and loss of in vivo activity due to the highly lipophilic nature of the alkaloids. Here, we describe the development of highly polar prodrugs of antofine and tylophorine as hypoxia-targeted prodrugs. The developed quaternary ammonium salts of phenanthroindolizidines showed high chemical and metabolic stability and are predicted to have no penetration through the blood-brain barrier. The designed prodrugs displayed decreased cytotoxicity when tested under normoxic conditions. However, their cytotoxic activity considerably increased when tested under hypoxic conditions.