17β-Hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 (17β-HSD1) is an enzyme that catalyzes NADPH-dependent reduction of the weak estrogen, estrone, into the most potent estrogen, estradiol, which exerts proliferative effects via the estrogen receptors. Overexpression of 17β-HSD1 in estrogen-responsive tissues is related to the development of hormone-dependent diseases, such as breast cancer and endometriosis; thus, 17β-HSD1 represents an attractive target for the development of new therapies. We have discovered that simple coumarines 1 and 2 significantly inhibit 17β-HSD1 in a recombinant enzyme assay, with high selectivity against 17β-HSD2. We postulated that the introduction of various p-substituted phenyl moieties to position 6 or 7 of the coumarin core using the Suzuki-Miyaura cross-coupling reaction would provide mimetics of steroidal structures with improved inhibition of 17β-HSD1. The best inhibitor in the series proved to be 6a, with an IC(50) of 270 nM, and with exceptional selectivity for 17β-HSD1 over 17β-HSD2 and against the α and β estrogen receptors.
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