Concise Synthesis and Biological Testing of Quinone-based Natural Products with Potential Therapeutic Effect

Natural Products are organic compounds that are produced by living organisms, such as plants or bacteria. Many natural products have been found to exhibit significant therapeutic effects against various diseases. In our research, we are interested in a group of molecules called quinones, which are commonly found in plants in small quantities.

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(Common molecules of the quinone family)

It is known that some quinones exhibit inhibitory effects on a respiratory enzyme called complex 1 Enzymes are molecules which facilitate biochemical reactions. The inhibition of complex 1 lowers the access to ATP, the energy currency of the cell. The resulting lack of ATP limits cell growth, which is detrimental to cancer cells. Fast-growing tumor cells require a lot more ATP to fuel their growth. Therefore, quinone derivatives that inhibit complex 1 and cut off ATP supply have the potential to be developed into anti-cancer drugs used in chemotherapy.

In order to successfully test the biological activity of quinones, sufficient amounts are required; however, only small amounts of quinones can be extracted from large amounts of natural sources (i.e. plant material). Thus, our research question is: how can we find novel methodologies for the direct synthesis of sufficient quantities of quinone derivatives in the laboratory in order to facilitate biological testing and discover new medicines.