Dicoumarol, a symmetrical biscoumarin can be considered as the “parent” of the widely used anticoagulant drug, warfarin. The discovery of dicoumarol’s bioactive properties resulted from an investigation into a mysterious cattle disease in the 1940s. It was then developed as a pharmaceutical, but was superseded in the 1950s by warfarin. Both dicoumarol and warfarin antagonise the blood clotting process through inhibition of vitamin K epoxide reductase (VKOR). This blocks the recycling of vitamin K and prevents the γ-carboxylation of glutamate residues in clotting factors. VKOR is an integral membrane protein and our understanding of the molecular mechanism of action of dicoumarol and warfarin is hampered by the lack of a three dimensional structure. There is consequent controversy about the membrane topology of VKOR, the location of the binding site for coumarin inhibitors and the mechanism of inhibition by these compounds. Dicoumarol (and warfarin) also inhibit a second enzyme, NAD(P)H quinone oxidoreductase 1 (NQO1). This soluble, cytoplasmic enzyme may also play a minor role in the recycling of vitamin K. However, its main cellular roles as an enzyme appear to be detoxification and the prevention of the build-up of reactive oxygen species. NQO1 is well characterised biochemically and structurally. Consequently, structure-based drug design has identified NQO1 inhibitors which have potential for the development of anti-cancer drugs. Many of these compounds are structurally related to dicoumarol and some have reduced “off target” effects. Therefore, it is possible that dicoumarol will become the “parent” of a second group of drugs.
Bibliographical noteThe published manuscript is available at EurekaSelect via http://www.eurekaselect.com/openurl/content.php?genre=article&doi=10.2174/1389450116666150722141906.
- Anti-cancer drug
- quinone cycling
- vitamin K