As a continuation of our research on antimycobacterial agents, a series of novel quinoxaline-1,4-di-N-oxides (QdNOs) containing various nitrogenous heterocyclic moieties at the R position were designed and synthesized. Antimycobacterial activities, as well as the cytotoxic effects, of the compounds were assayed. Four compounds (6b, 6f, 6n, and 6o), characterized by 2-carboxylate ethyl or benzyl ester, 6-imidazolyl or 1,2,4-triazolyl, and a 7-fluorine group, exhibited the most potent antimycobacterial activity against M.tb strain H37Rv (MIC ≤ 0.25 μg/mL) with low toxicity in VERO cells (SI = 169.3-412.1). Compound 6o also exhibited excellent antimycobacterial activity in an M.tb-infected macrophage model and was selected for further exploration of the mode of antimycobacterial action of QdNOs. The results showed that compound 6o was capable of disrupting membrane integrity and disturbing energy homeostasis in M.tb. Furthermore, compound 6o noticeably increased cellular ROS levels and, subsequently, induced autophagy in M.tb-infected macrophages, possibly indicating the pathways of QdNOs-mediated inhibition of intracellular M.tb replication. The in vivo pharmacokinetic (PK) profiles indicated that compounds 6o was acceptably safe and possesses favorable PK properties. Altogether, these findings suggest that compound 6o is a promising antimycobacterial candidate for further research.
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