Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is characterized by abnormal inflammatory responses and airflow limitations. We recently proposed that the muscarinic antagonist mepenzolate bromide (mepenzolate) would be therapeutically effective against COPD due to its muscarinic receptor-dependent bronchodilatory activity as well as anti-inflammatory properties. Mepenzolate has an asymmetric carbon atom, thus providing us with the opportunity to synthesize both of its enantiomers ((R)- and (S)-mepenzolate) and to examine their biochemical and pharmacological activities. (R)- or (S)-mepenzolate was synthesized by condensation of benzilic acid with (R)- or (S)-alcohol, respectively, followed by quaternization of the tertiary amine. As predicted by computational simulation, a filter-binding assay in vitro revealed that (R)-mepenzolate showed a higher affinity for the muscarinic M3 receptor than (S)-mepenzolate. In vivo, the bronchodilatory activity of (R)-mepenzolate was superior to that of (S)-mepenzolate, whereas anti-inflammatory activity was indistinguishable between the two enantiomers. We confirmed that each mepenzolate maintained its original stereochemistry in the lung when administered intratracheally. These results suggest that (R)-mepenzolate may have superior properties to (S)-mepenzolate as a drug to treat COPD patients given that the former has more potent bronchodilatory activity than the latter.
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