A variety of anthracene- and anthraquinone-related derivatives, modified from three types of lead structures, including 9-acyloxy 1,5-dichloroanthracene (type I), 1,5-bisacyloxy-anthraquinones with O-linked substituents (type II) and 1,5-bisacyloxy-anthraquinones with S-linked substituents (type III), were synthesized and evaluated by an in-vitro bioassay for their anti-inflammatory and cytotoxic effects in human leucocytes. Among these derivatives, type I compounds displayed potent anti-inflammatory activity against phorbol-12-myristate-13-acetate (PMA)-induced superoxide anion production, a bio-marker of inflammatory mediator production by neutrophils, with 50% inhibition (IC50) concentrations (μM) for compounds 1f, 1g, 1h and 1m being 13.8 ± 3.0, 6.3 ± 4.1, 33.2 ± 1.3 and 33.9 ± 5.7, respectively. Type II and type III derivatives (i.e., 1,5-bisacyloxy anthraquinone-related compounds) and the reference compound, emodin, exhibited relatively minor (20-40%) inhibitory effect against superoxide production by neutrophils. Furthermore, none of these compounds showed a significant cytotoxic effect in human neutrophils. In conclusion, these results suggest that compounds modified from 9-acyloxy 1,5-dichloroanthracence (type I) are more powerful than the other two types as anti-inflammatory drugs. This is the first demonstration that derivatives modified from anthracenes or anthraquinones possess anti-inflammatory activity with no significant cytotoxicity in human neutrophils.
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