Proteins of the Bcl-2 family are key targets in anticancer drug discovery. Disrupting the interaction between anti- and pro-apoptotic members of this protein family was the approach chosen in this study to restore apoptosis. Thus, a biological screening on the modulation of the Bcl-xL/Bak and Mcl-1/Bid interactions permitted the selection of Knema hookeriana for further phytochemical investigations. The ethyl acetate extract from the stem bark led to the isolation of six new compounds, three acetophenone derivatives (1-3) and three anacardic acid derivatives (4-6), along with four known anacardic acids (7-10) and two cardanols (11, 12). Their structures were elucidated by 1D and 2D NMR analysis in combination with HRMS experiments. The ability of these compounds to antagonize Bcl-xL/Bak and Mcl-1/Bid association was determined, using a protein-protein interaction assay, but only anacardic acid derivatives (4-10) exhibited significant binding properties, with Ki values ranging from 0.2 to 18 μM. Protein-ligand NMR experiments further revealed that anacardic acid 9, the most active compound, does not interact with the anti-apoptotic proteins Bcl-xL and Mcl-1 but instead interacts with pro-apoptotic protein Bid.
Four new compounds, (+)- and (-)-ecarlottone (1), (±)-fislatifolione (5), (±)-isofislatifolione (6), and (±)-fislatifolic acid (7), and the known desmethoxyyangonin (2), didymocarpin-A (3), and dehydrodidymocarpin-A (4) were isolated from the stem bark of Fissistigma latifolium, by means of bioassay-guided purification using an in vitro affinity displacement assay based on the modulation of Bcl-xL/Bak and Mcl-1/Bid interactions. The structures of the new compounds were elucidated by NMR spectroscopic data analysis, and the absolute configurations of compounds (+)-1 and (-)-1 were assigned by comparison of experimental and computed ECD spectra. (-)-Ecarlottone 1 exhibited a potent antagonistic activity on both protein-protein associations with Ki values of 4.8 μM for Bcl-xL/Bak and 2.4 μM for Mcl-1/Bid.
A phytochemical investigation of the methanolic extract of the bark of Endiandra kingiana led to the isolation of seven new tetracyclic endiandric acid analogues, kingianic acids A-G (1-7), together with endiandric acid M (8), tsangibeilin B (9) and endiandric acid (10). Their structures were determined by 1D- and 2D-NMR analysis in combination with HRMS experiments. The structure of compounds 9 and 10 were confirmed by single-crystal X-ray diffraction analysis. These compounds were screened for Bcl-xL and Mcl-1 binding affinities and cytotoxic activity on various cancer cell lines. Compound 5 showed moderate cytotoxic activity against human colorectal adeno-carcinoma (HT-29) and lung adenocarcinoma epithelial (A549) cell lines, with IC50 values in the range 15-17 µM, and compounds 3, 6 and 9 exhibited weak binding affinity for the anti-apoptotic protein Mcl-1.