Merged tacrine-based, multitarget-directed acetylcholinesterase inhibitors 2015–present: Synthesis and biological activity

Todd J. Eckroat, Danielle L. Manross, Seth C. Cowan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Acetylcholinesterase is an important biochemical enzyme in that it controls acetylcholinemediated neuronal transmission in the central nervous system, contains a unique structure with two binding sites connected by a gorge region, and it has historically been the main pharmacological target for treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Given the large projected increase in Alzheimer’s disease cases in the coming decades and its complex, multifactorial nature, new drugs that target multiple aspects of the disease at once are needed. Tacrine, the first acetylcholinesterase inhibitor used clinically but withdrawn due to hepatotoxicity concerns, remains an important starting point in research for the development of multitarget-directed acetylcholinesterase inhibitors. This review highlights tacrine-based, multitarget-directed acetylcholinesterase inhibitors published in the literature since 2015 with a specific focus on merged compounds (i.e., compounds where tacrine and a second pharmacophore show significant overlap in structure). The synthesis of these compounds from readily available starting materials is discussed, along with acetylcholinesterase inhibition data, relative to tacrine, and structure activity relationships. Where applicable, molecular modeling, to elucidate key enzyme-inhibitor interactions, and secondary biological activity is highlighted. Of the numerous compounds identified, there is a subset with promising preliminary screening results, which should inspire further development and future research in this field.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number5965
Pages (from-to)1-33
Number of pages33
JournalInternational journal of molecular sciences
Issue number17
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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