Tuning the stereo-hindrance of a curcumin scaffold for the selective imaging of the soluble forms of amyloid beta species
Amyloid peptides and proteins are associated with the pathologies of numerous diseases. In the progression of a disease, amyloids exist in soluble and insoluble forms, which are the dominant species at different stages of the disease and they have different degrees of toxicity. However, differentiating between the soluble and insoluble forms is very challenging with small molecule probes due to multiple obstacles that need to be overcome. Inspired by the recognition principle of antibodies for sAβ, we hypothesized that the accessibility/tightness of soluble and insoluble amyloids could be utilized to design imaging probes to recognize different amyloid forms and the stereo-hindrance tuning strategy could be used to design imaging probes for selectively detecting the soluble amyloid beta (sAβ) species in Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Herein, we demonstrated that tuning the stereo-hindrance of the phenoxy-alkyl chains at the 4-position of a curcumin scaffold could lead to certain selectivity for sAβ over insoluble Aβs (insAβ). Among the designed compounds, CRANAD-102 showed a 68-fold higher affinity for sAβ than for insAβ (7.5 ± 10 nM vs. 505.9 ± 275.9 nM). Moreover, our imaging data indicated that CRANAD-102 was indeed capable of detecting sAβ in vivo using 4 month old APP/PS1 mice, in which sAβ is the predominant species in the brain. In addition, we also demonstrated that CRANAD-102 could be used to monitor the increase in sAβ loading from the ages of 4 months old to 12 months old. We believe that CRANAD-102 can be a useful probe for selectively detecting sAβ species in AD and that our probe designing strategy can be applied to other amyloids and will have tremendous impact on AD drug development and other amyloid research.