Starting from six potential hits identified in a virtual screening campaign directed to a cryptic pocket of BACE-1, at the edge of the catalytic cleft, we have synthesized and evaluated six hybrid compounds, designed to simultaneously reach BACE-1 secondary and catalytic sites and to exert additional activities of interest for Alzheimer’s disease (AD). We have identified a lead compound with potent in vitro activity towards human BACE-1 and cholinesterases, moderate Aβ42 and tau antiaggregating activity, and brain permeability, which is nontoxic in neuronal cells and zebrafish embryos at concentrations above those required for the in vitro activities. This compound completely restored short- and long-term memory in a mouse model of AD (SAMP8) relative to healthy control strain SAMR1, shifted APP processing towards the non-amyloidogenic pathway, reduced tau phosphorylation, and increased the levels of synaptic proteins PSD95 and synaptophysin, thereby emerging as a promising disease-modifying, cognition-enhancing anti-AD lead.
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