The search of new therapeutic tools for the treatment of cancer is being a challenge for medicinal chemists. Due to their role in different pathol. conditions, histone deacetylase (HDAC) enzymes are considered valuable therapeutic targets. HDAC6 is a well-investigated HDAC-class IIb enzyme mainly characterized by a cytoplasmic localization; HDAC8 is an epigenetic eraser, unique HDAC-class I member that displays some aminoacidic similarity to HDAC6. New polypharmacol. agents for cancer treatment, based on a dual hHDAC6/hHDAC8 inhibition profile were developed. The dual inhibitor design investigated the diphenyl-azetidin-2-one scaffold, typified in three different structural families, that, combined to a slender benzyl linker (6c, 6i, and 6j), displays nanomolar inhibition potency against hHDAC6 and hHDAC8 isoforms. Notably, their selective action was also corroborated by measuring their low inhibitory potency towards hHDAC1 and hHDAC10. Selectivity of these compounds was further demonstrated in human cell-based western blots experiments, by testing the acetylation of the non-histone substrates alpha-tubulin and SMC3. Furthermore, the compounds reduced the proliferation of colorectal HCT116 and leukemia U937 cells, after 48 h of treatment. The toxicity of the compounds was evaluated in rat perfused heart and in zebrafish embryos. In this latter model we also validated the efficacy of the dual hHDAC6/hHDAC8 inhibitors against their common target acetylated-alpha tubulin. Finally, the metabolic stability was verified in rat, mouse, and human liver microsomes.
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