Auxiliary in vitro and in vivo biological evaluation of hydrogen peroxide sensitive prodrugs of methotrexate and aminopterin for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis

Viola Previtali, Katarina Petrovic, Jorge Peiro Cadahía, Nikolaj Sten Troelsen, Mads Hartvig Clausen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory disease that causes severe joints damage and other extra-articular alterations. Despite the efficacy of low-dose methotrexate (LD-MTX) in RA treatment, adverse effects are the predominant reasons for discontinuation of therapy. As a therapeutic targeting strategy, the presence of increased concentrations of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in the inflammatory environment can serve as the stimulus for prodrug activation in siteselective drug delivery systems. Our group has previously reported novel ROS sensitive prodrugs (1– 3) of MTX and aminopterin (AMT) for site-selective delivery to inflammatory tissue associated with RA, with the aim of reducing side effects in RA therapy. Herein, we investigate the effect and toxicity of the same prodrugs in a rat CIA (collagen-induced arthritis) model of RA. We find that prodrug 1, an arylboronic acid ROS-sensitive MTX-prodrug, displays similar in vivo efficacy as MTX at an equimolar dose, while avoiding adverse effects known to restrict MTX treatment. To further characterize prodrug 1 and its ROS mediated activation, we synthesized compound 4, a negative control lacking the boronic acid moiety. We then investigated the effect of molecules on cell proliferation and cytotoxicity in the presence of the ROS scavenger pyruvate, as well as their stability in buffer and cell media, demonstrating a direct correlation between ROS concentration and the prodrug activity. Moreover, the in vitro ADME properties were investigated, including permeability, rat plasma and microsomal stability.
Original languageEnglish
Article number115247
JournalBioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Inflammation
  • Methotrexate
  • Aminopterin
  • Prodrug
  • Boronic acids
  • Reactive oxygen species

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