: Here we report a detailed structure-activity relationship (SAR) study related to [1,2,4]triazolo[4,3-a]quinoxaline-based compounds targeting the reader module of bromodomain containing-protein 9 (BRD9). 3D structure-based pharmacophore models, previously introduced by us, were here employed to evaluate a second generation of compounds, exploring different substitution patterns on the heterocyclic core. Starting from the promising data obtained from our previously identified [1,2,4]triazolo[4,3-a]quinoxaline-based compounds 1-4, the combination of in silico studies, chemical synthesis, biophysical and in vitro assays led to the identification of a new set of derivatives, selected for thoroughly exploring the chemical space of the bromodomain binding site. In more details, the investigation of different linkers at C-4 position highlighted the amine spacer as mandatory for the binding with the protein counterpart and the crucial role of the alkyl substituents at C-1 for increasing the selectivity toward BRD9. Additionally, the importance of a hydrogen bond donor group, critical to anchor the ZA region and required for the interaction with Ile53 residue, was inferred from the analysis of our collected results. Herein we also propose an optimization and an update of our previously reported "pharm-druglike2" 3D structure-based pharmacophore model, introducing it as "pharm-druglike2.1". Compounds 24-26, 32, 34 and 36 were identified as new valuable BRD9 binders featuring IC50 values in the low micromolar range. Among them, 24 and 36 displayed an excellent selectivity towards BRD9 and a good antiproliferative effect on a panel of leukemia models, especially toward CCRF-CEM cell line, with no cytotoxicity on healthy cells. Notably, the interaction of 24 and 36 with the bromodomain and PHD finger-containing protein 1 (BRPF1) also emerged, disclosing them as new and unexplored dual inhibitors for these two proteins highly involved in leukemia. These findings highlight the potential for the identification of new attractive dual epidrugs as well as a promising starting point for the development of chemical degraders endowed with anticancer activities.
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