Cathepsins K and S are closely related papain-like cysteine peptidases and potential therapeutic targets for metabolic and inflammatory diseases such as osteoporosis and arthritis. Here we describe the reduction of a previously characterized succinimide (2,5-dioxopyrrolidine)-containing hyperbolic inhibitor of cathepsin K (methyl (RS)-N-[1-(4-methoxyphenyl)-2,5-dioxopyrrolidin-3-yl]glycinate), to obtain a better and more selective compound (compound 4a – methyl (2,5-dioxopyrrolidin-3-yl)glycinate), which acted as a hyperbolic mixed inhibitor/activator similar to already known allosteric effectors of cathepsin K. We then investigated the potential of the succinimide scaffold as inhibitors of cathepsins K and/or S and synthesized a library of such compounds by 1,4-addition of α-amino acid esters and related compounds to N-substituted maleimides. From the generated library, we identified the first small molecule hyperbolic inhibitors of cathepsin S (methyl ((R)-2,5-dioxopyrrolidin-3-yl)-l-threoninate (compound R-4c) and 3-{[(1S,2R,3’S)-2-hydroxycyclohexyl]amino}pyrrolidine-2,5-dione (compound (1S,2R,3’S-10)). The former acted via a similar mechanism to compound 4a, while the latter was a hyperbolic specific inhibitor of cathepsin S. Given the versatility of the scaffold, the identified compounds will be used as the basis for the development of high-affinity hyperbolic inhibitors of the individual peptidases and to explore the potential of hyperbolic inhibitors for the inhibition of cysteine cathepsins in in vitro models.
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