The Keap1-Nrf2 system is an attractive target for drug discovery regarding various unmet medical needs. Only covalent inhibitors for protein-protein interaction (PPI) between Keap1 and Nrf2 to activate Nrf2 have been approved or are under clinical trials, but such electrophilic compounds lack selectivity. Therefore, specific non-covalent Keap1-Nrf2 PPI inhibitors are expected to be safer Nrf2 activators. We found a novel class of non-covalent Keap1-Nrf2 PPI inhibitor that has a benzo[g]indole skeleton and an indole-3-hydroxamic acid moiety and that exhibits significant PPI inhibitory activity. Additionally, the benzo[g]indole-3-carbohydrazide derivatives were newly prepared. The benzo[g]indole derivatives showed a stronger Keap1-Nrf2 PPI inhibitory activity than Cpd16, a previously reported non-covalent PPI inhibitor. Moreover, most of the PPI inhibitors showed a high metabolic stability in a human microsome system with a low cytotoxicity against HepG2 cell lines, which suggests that novel benzo[g]indole-type Keap1-Nrf2 PPI inhibitors are expected to be biological tools or lead compounds for Nrf2 activators.
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