Image-guided synthesis reveals potent blood-brain barrier permeable histone deacetylase inhibitors

Young Jun Seo, Yeona Kang, Lisa Muench, Alicia Reid, Shannon Caesar, Logan Jean, Florence Wagner, Edward Holson, Stephen J. Haggarty, Philipp Weiss, Payton King, Pauline Carter, Nora D. Volkow, Joanna S. Fowler, Jacob M. Hooker, Sung Won Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Recent studies have revealed that several histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors, which are used to study/treat brain diseases, show low blood-brain barrier (BBB) penetration. In addition to low HDAC potency and selectivity observed, poor brain penetrance may account for the high doses needed to achieve therapeutic efficacy. Here we report the development and evaluation of highly potent and blood-brain barrier permeable HDAC inhibitors for CNS applications based on an image-guided approach involving the parallel synthesis and radiolabeling of a series of compounds based on the benzamide HDAC inhibitor, MS-275 as a template. BBB penetration was optimized by rapid carbon-11 labeling and PET imaging in the baboon model and using the imaging derived data on BBB penetration from each compound to feed back into the design process. A total of 17 compounds were evaluated, revealing molecules with both high binding affinity and BBB permeability. A key element conferring BBB penetration in this benzamide series was a basic benzylic amine. These derivatives exhibited 1-100 nM inhibitory activity against recombinant human HDAC1 and HDAC2. Three of the carbon-11 labeled aminomethyl benzamide derivatives showed high BBB penetration (∼0.015%ID/cc) and regional binding heterogeneity in the brain (high in thalamus and cerebellum). Taken together this approach has afforded a strategy and a predictive model for developing highly potent and BBB permeable HDAC inhibitors for CNS applications and for the discovery of novel candidate molecules for small molecule probes and drugs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)588-596
Number of pages9
JournalACS Chemical Neuroscience
Issue number7
StatePublished - 16 Jul 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Histone deacetylase
  • benzamides
  • blood-brain barrier permeability
  • positron emission tomography


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