State Key Laboratory of Microbial Resources and CAS Key Laboratory of Pathogenic Microbiology and Immunology, Institute of Microbiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, 100101, China; State Key Laboratory of Bioreactor Engineering, East China University of Science and Technology, Shanghai, 200237, China. Electronic address: [Email]
Accetohydroxyacid synthase (AHAS) is the first enzyme involved in the biosynthetic pathway of branched-chain amino acids. Earlier gene mutation of Candida albicans in a mouse model suggested that this enzyme is a promising target of antifungals. Recent studies have demonstrated that some commercial AHAS-inhibiting sulfonylurea herbicides exerted desirable antifungal activity. In this study, we have designed and synthesized 68 novel ethoxysulfulron (ES) derivatives and evaluated their inhibition constants (Ki) against C. albicans AHAS and cell based minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) values. The target compounds 5-1, 5-10, 5-22, 5-31 and 5-37 displayed stronger AHAS inhibitions than ES did. Compound 5-1 had the best Ki of 6.7 nM against fungal AHAS and MIC values of 2.5 mg/L against Candida albicans and Candica parapsilosis after 72 h. A suitable nematode model was established here and the antifungal activity of 5-1 was further evaluated in vivo. A possible binding mode was simulated via molecular docking and a comparative field analysis (CoMFA) model was constructed to understand the structure-activity relationship. The current study has indicated that some ES derivatives should be considered as promising hits to develop antifungal drugs with novel biological target.