Novel cudraisoflavone J derivatives as potent neuroprotective agents for the treatment of Parkinson's disease via the activation of Nrf2/HO-1 signaling

Qili Lu, Noha A. Gouda, Guofeng Quan, Hossam Nada, Ahmed Elkamhawy, Dongho Lee, Chang Hoon Lee, Jungsook Cho, Kyeong Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Parkinson's disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder that causes uncontrollable movements. Although many breakthroughs in PD therapy have been accomplished, there is currently no cure for PD, and only trials to relieve symptoms have been evaluated. Recently, we reported the total synthesis of cudraisoflavone J and its chiral isomers [Lu et al., J. Nat. Prod. 2021, 84, 1359]. In this study, we designed and synthesized a series of novel cudraisoflavone J derivatives and evaluated their neuroprotective activities in neurotoxin-treated PC12 cells. Among these compounds, difluoro-substituted derivative (13m) and prenylated derivative (24) provided significant protection to PC12 cells against toxicity induced by 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA) or rotenone. Both derivatives inhibited 6-OHDA- or rotenone-induced production of reactive oxygen species and partially attenuated lipid peroxidation in rat brain homogenates, indicating their antioxidant properties. They also increased the expression of the antioxidant enzyme, heme oxygenase (HO)-1, and enhanced the nuclear translocation of Nrf2, the transcription factor that regulates the expression of antioxidant proteins. The neuroprotective effects of 13m and 24 were eliminated by Zn(II)-protoporphyrin IX, an HO-1 inhibitor, demonstrating the critical role of HO-1 in their actions. Moreover, upregulation of HO-1 was abolished by nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor (Nrf2) knockdown, verifying that Nrf2 is an upstream regulator of HO-1. Compounds 13m and 24 triggered phosphorylation of ERK1/2, JNK, and Akt. Most importantly, 13m- and 24-induced enhancement of Nrf2 translocation and HO-1 expression was reversed by U0126 (an ERK inhibitor), SP600125 (a JNK inhibitor), and LY294002 (an Akt inhibitor). Collectively, our results show that compounds 13m and 24 exert neuroprotective and antioxidant effects through the Nrf2/HO-1 pathway mediated by phosphorylation of ERK1/2, JNK, or Akt in PC12 cells. Based on our findings, both derivatives could serve as potential therapeutic candidates for the neuroprotective treatment of PD.

Original languageEnglish
Article number114692
JournalEuropean Journal of Medicinal Chemistry
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Nov 15

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors declare the following financial interests/personal relationships which may be considered as potential competing interests: Kyeong Lee reports financial support was provided by National Research Foundation of Korea ( NRF ) grant funded by the Korean government ( MSIT ) (No. NRF-2018R1A5A2023127 ).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022


  • Cudraisoflavone J
  • Heme oxygenase-1
  • Neuroprotection
  • Nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2)
  • PC12 cells
  • Parkinson's disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Drug Discovery
  • Organic Chemistry


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