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Antithyroid Drugs and Their Analogues: Synthesis, Structure, and Mechanism of Action

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Department of Inorganic & Physical Chemistry, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore 560012, India
Department of Chemistry, School of Natural Sciences, Shiv Nadar University, Dadri 203207, Uttar Pradesh, India
Cite this: Acc. Chem. Res. 2013, 46, 11, 2706–2715
Publication Date (Web):July 24, 2013
Copyright © 2013 American Chemical Society

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    Thyroid hormones are essential for the development and differentiation of all cells of the human body. They regulate protein, fat, and carbohydrate metabolism. In this Account, we discuss the synthesis, structure, and mechanism of action of thyroid hormones and their analogues.

    The prohormone thyroxine (T4) is synthesized on thyroglobulin by thyroid peroxidase (TPO), a heme enzyme that uses iodide and hydrogen peroxide to perform iodination and phenolic coupling reactions. The monodeiodination of T4 to 3,3′,5-triiodothyronine (T3) by selenium-containing deiodinases (ID-1, ID-2) is a key step in the activation of thyroid hormones. The type 3 deiodinase (ID-3) catalyzes the deactivation of thyroid hormone in a process that removes iodine selectively from the tyrosyl ring of T4 to produce 3,3′,5′-triiodothyronine (rT3). Several physiological and pathological stimuli influence thyroid hormone synthesis. The overproduction of thyroid hormones leads to hyperthyroidism, which is treated by antithyroid drugs that either inhibit the thyroid hormone biosynthesis and/or decrease the conversion of T4 to T3.

    Antithyroid drugs are thiourea-based compounds, which include propylthiouracil (PTU), methimazole (MMI), and carbimazole (CBZ). The thyroid gland actively concentrates these heterocyclic compounds against a concentration gradient. Recently, the selenium analogues of PTU, MMI, and CBZ attracted significant attention because the selenium moiety in these compounds has a higher nucleophilicity than that of the sulfur moiety. Researchers have developed new methods for the synthesis of the selenium compounds. Several experimental and theoretical investigations revealed that the selone (C═Se) in the selenium analogues is more polarized than the thione (C═S) in the sulfur compounds, and the selones exist predominantly in their zwitterionic forms.

    Although the thionamide-based antithyroid drugs have been used for almost 70 years, the mechanism of their action is not completely understood. Most investigations have revealed that MMI and PTU irreversibly inhibit TPO. PTU, MTU, and their selenium analogues also inhibit ID-1, most likely by reacting with the selenenyl iodide intermediate. The good ID-1 inhibitory activity of PTU and its analogues can be ascribed to the presence of the −N(H)–C(═O)– functionality that can form hydrogen bonds with nearby amino acid residues in the selenenyl sulfide state. In addition to the TPO and ID-1 inhibition, the selenium analogues are very good antioxidants. In the presence of cellular reducing agents such as GSH, these compounds catalytically reduce hydrogen peroxide. They can also efficiently scavenge peroxynitrite, a potent biological oxidant and nitrating agent.

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