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BACKGROUND: There is now abundant evidence that inhibition of steroid sulphatase alone or in conjunction with inhibition of aromatase may enhance the response of postmenopausal patients with hormone-dependent breast cancer to this type of endocrine therapy. Additionally, sulphatase inhibition has been proposed to be of potential therapeutic benefit in the immune system and for neuro-degenerative diseases. After the finding that our first highly potent active site-directed steroid sulphatase inhibitor, oestrone-3-O-sulphamate (EMATE), was highly oestrogenic, we proposed non-steroidal coumarin sulphamates such as 4-methylcoumarin-7-O-sulphamate (COUMATE) as alternative non-steroidal steroid sulphatase inhibitors. In this work, we describe how tricyclic coumarin-based sulphamates have been developed which are even more potent than COUMATE, are non-oestrogenic and orally active. We also discuss potential mechanisms of action. RESULTS: 4-Ethyl- (4), 4-(n-propyl)- (6), 3-ethyl-4-methyl- (8), 4-methyl-3-(n-propyl)coumarin-7-O-sulphamate (11); the tricyclic derivatives 665COUMATE (13), 666COUMATE (15), 667COUMATE (17), 668COUMATE (20) and the tricyclic oxepin sulphamate (22) were synthesised. In a placental microsome preparation, all of these analogues were found to be more active than COUMATE in the inhibition of oestrone sulphatase, with the most potent inhibitor being 667COUMATE which has an IC(50) of 8 nM, some 3-fold lower than that for EMATE (25 nM). In addition, 667COUMATE was also found to inhibit DHEA-sulphatase some 25-fold more potently than EMATE in a placental microsome preparation. Like EMATE, 667COUMATE acts in a time- and concentration-dependent manner, suggesting that it is an active site-directed inhibitor. However, in contrast to EMATE, 667COUMATE has the important advantage of not being oestrogenic. In addition, we propose several diverse mechanisms of action for this active site-directed steroid sulphatase inhibitor in the light of recent publications on the crystal structures of human arylsulphatases A and B and the catalytic site topology for the hydrolysis of a sulphate ester. CONCLUSIONS: A highly potent non-steroidal, non-oestrogenic and irreversible steroid sulphatase inhibitor has been developed. Several mechanisms of action for an active site-directed steroid sulphatase inhibitor are proposed. With 667COUMATE now in pre-clinical development for clinical trial, this should allow the biological and/or clinical significance of steroid sulphatase inhibitors in the treatment of postmenopausal women with hormone-dependent breast cancer and other therapeutic indications to be fully evaluated.


Journal article


Chem Biol

Publication Date





773 - 791


Alanine, Antineoplastic Agents, Arylsulfatases, Binding Sites, Breast Neoplasms, Coumarins, Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate, Dose-Response Relationship, Drug, Estrone, Female, Glycine, Heterocyclic Compounds, 3-Ring, Humans, Hydrogen Bonding, Kinetics, Microsomes, Models, Molecular, Placenta, Postmenopause, Steryl-Sulfatase, Structure-Activity Relationship, Sulfatases, Sulfonamides, Sulfonic Acids