In the present study, various 1-substituted and 1,3-disubstituted β-carboline derivatives were synthesized by a modified single-step Pictet-Spengler reaction. The compounds were examined for cytotoxicity and anti-inflammatory activity, as measured by the inhibition of prostaglandin E 2 (PGE 2) production and nitric oxide (NO) production. While only two compounds (28 and 31) showed marginal cytotoxicity against four human cancer cell lines, most of the tested compounds exhibited potent inhibitory activity of both NO and PGE 2 production. Moreover, compounds 6 and 16 significantly reduced the expression of inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) and cyclooxygenase 2 (COX2), suggesting that β-carboline analogs can inhibit NO and PGE 2 production at the translational level. In addition, several of the β-carboline derivatives (1, 2, 4-8, 11, 13, 22, 25, 27, 31, and 41-43) displayed significant inhibitory activity of superoxide anion (O2·-) generation or elastase release compared to the reference compound, with 6 being the most potent. N-Formyl-l-methionyl-phenylalanine (FMLP)-induced phosphorylation of c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) and protein kinase B (AKT) were also inhibited by 6, suggesting that it suppresses human neutrophil functions by inhibiting the activation of JNK and AKT signaling pathways. Therefore, the synthetic 1-benzoyl-3-carboxy β-carboline analogs may have great potential to be developed as anti-inflammatory agents.
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