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Glycomimetics at the Mirror: Medicinal Chemistry of L-Iminosugars

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Inhibition of carbohydrate processing enzymes is a topic of great interest, as these enzymes are involved in a plethora of key biochemical events, such as digestion, lysosomal catabolism of glycoconjugates and post-translational glycoprotein processing. Among the most potent inhibitors of such enzymes, iminosugars have emerged as versatile tools for medicinal chemists, especially those in quest for new therapeutic agents. Supply of iminosugars from natural sources or by chemical synthesis has provided excellent targets for medical intervention, ranging from antidiabetics and antivirals to inhibitors of genetic disorders.

Although a huge body of literature has been reported around iminosugars, most data have focused on D-series iminosugars, whereas relatively little attention has been devoted to the corresponding L-enantiomers, due to their supposed lack of biological activity profile, as well as their scarce availability from natural sources. Notwithstanding, recent insights into the molecular details of enzyme-inhibitor interactions have led to a reassessment of L-iminosugars for pharmaceutical purposes. On one hand, they have been used as tools for intensive SAR (structure-activity-relationship) studies, in order to gain new information on the enzymatic inhibition mechanisms. Likewise, early reports on biological activity of Liminosugars have led to reconsider their therapeutic skills.

This review focuses on the most significant discoveries regarding medicinal chemistry of L-iminosugars. The important role L-iminosugars play in unravelling the inhibition mechanisms of specific enzymes is herein recognized; moreover, the high potential of this class of inhibitors as novel drug candidates is under discussion.

Keywords: Iminosugars; carbohydrate-processing enzymes; glycomimetics; glycosidase inhibitors; mirror-image inhibitors; noncompetitive inhibitors

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Dipartimento di Chimica Organica e Biochimica, Universita di Napoli Federico II, via Cinthia, 4 I- 80126 Napoli, Italy.

Publication date: February 1, 2009

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  • Current Medicinal Chemistry covers all the latest and outstanding developments in medicinal chemistry and rational drug design. Each issue contains a series of timely in-depth reviews written by leaders in the field covering a range of the current topics in medicinal chemistry. Current Medicinal Chemistry is an essential journal for every medicinal chemist who wishes to be kept informed and up-to-date with the latest and most important developments.

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