Aldehyde dehydrogenase 1A1 (ALDH1A1) plays vital physiological and toxicological functions in many areas, such as CNS, inflammation, metabolic disorders, and cancers. Overexpression of ALDH1A1 has been disclosed to play an important role in obesity, diabetes and other diseases, indicating the potential need for the identification and development of small molecule ALDH1A1 inhibitors. Herein, a series of benzimidazole derivatives was designed, synthesized and evaluated. Among them, compounds 21, 27, 29, 61 and 65 exhibited excellent inhibitory activity against ALDH1A1 with IC values in the low micromolar range and high selectivity over ALDH1A2, ALDH1A3, ALDH2 and ALDH3A1. Moreover, an in vitro study demonstrated that all five compounds effectively improved glucose consumption in HepG2 cells, of which, 61 and 65 at 10 µM produced nearly equal glucose consumption with positive control Metformin (Met) at 1 mM. Furthermore, 61 and 65 showed desirable metabolic stability in human liver microsomes. All these results suggest that 61 and 65 are suitable for further studies.
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