Apoptosis signal-regulating kinase 1 (ASK1, MAP3K5), a member of the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling pathway, is involved in cell survival, differentiation, stress response, and apoptosis. ASK1 kinase inhibition has emerged as a promising therapeutic strategy for inflammatory disease. A series of novel ASK1 inhibitors with 1H-indazole scaffold were designed, synthesized and evaluated for their ASK1 kinase activity and AP1-HEK293 cell inhibitory effect. Systematic structure-activity relationship (SAR) efforts led to the discovery of promising compound 15, which showed excellent in vitro ASK1 kinase activity and potent inhibitory effects on ASK1 in AP1-HEK293 cells. In a tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α)-induced HT-29 intestinal epithelial cell model, compound 15 exhibited a significantly protective effect on cell viability comparable to that of GS-4997; moreover, compound 15 exhibited no obvious cytotoxicity against HT-29 cells at concentrations up to 25 μM. Mechanistic research demonstrated that compound 15 suppresses phosphorylation in the ASK1-p38/JNK signaling pathway in HT-29 cells, and regulates the expression levels of apoptosis-related proteins. Altogether, these results show that compound 15 may serve as a potential candidate compound for the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
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