Hepatotoxicity caused by an overdose of acetaminophen (APAP) is the leading reason for acute drug-related liver failure. Nuclear factor erythroid-2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) is a protein that helps to regulate redox homeostasis and coordinate stress responses via binding to the Kelch-like ECH-associated protein 1 (Keap1). Targeting the Keap1-Nrf2 interaction has recently emerged as a potential strategy to alleviate liver injury caused by APAP. Here, we designed and synthesized a number of iridium (III) and rhodium (III) complexes bearing ligands with reported activity against oxidative stress, which is associated with Nrf2 transcriptional activation. The iridium (III) complex 1 bearing a bioactive ligand 2,9-dimethyl-1,10-phenanthroline and 4-chloro-2-phenylquinoline, a derivative of the bioactive ligand 2-phenylquinoline, was identified as a direct small-molecule inhibitor of the Keap1–Nrf2 protein-protein interaction. 1 could stabilize Keap1 protein, upregulate HO-1 and NQO1, and promote Nrf2 nuclear translocation in normal liver cells. Moreover, 1 reversed APAP-induced liver damage by disrupting Keap1–Nrf2 interaction and without inducing organ damage and immunotoxicity in mice. Our study demonstrates the identification of a selective and efficacious antagonist of Keap1–Nrf2 interaction possessed good cellular permeability in cellulo and ideal pharmacokinetic parameters in vivo, and, more importantly, validates the feasibility of conjugating metal complexes with bioactive ligands to generate metal-based drug leads as non-toxic Keap1–Nrf2 interaction inhibitors for treating APAP-induced acute liver injury.
Scopus Subject Areas
- Organic Chemistry
- Clinical Biochemistry
- Iridium(III) complex
- Kelch-like ECH-Associated protein 1
- Liver injury
- Nuclear factor E2-related factor 2