The relationship between Taxol and (+)-discodermolide: Synthetic analogs and modeling studies

Laura A. Martello, Matthew J. LaMarche, Lifeng He, Thomas J. Beauchamp, Amos B. Smith, Susan Band Horwitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Scopus citations


Background: During the past decade, Taxol has assumed an important role in cancer chemotherapy. The search for novel compounds with a mechanism of action similar to that of Taxol, but with greater efficacy particularly in Taxol-resistant cells, has led to the isolation of new natural products. One such compound, (+)-discodermolide, although structurally distinct from Taxol, has a similar ability to stabilize microtubules. In addition, (+)-discodermolide is active in Taxol-resistant cell lines that overexpress P-glycoprotein, the multidrug-resistant transporter. Interestingly, (+)-discodermolide demonstrates a profound enhancement of the initiation process of microtubule polymerization compared to Taxol. Results: The synthesis of (+)-discodermolide analogs exploiting our highly efficient, triply convergent approach has permitted structure-activity relationship (SAR) studies. Small changes to the (+)-discodermolide structure resulted in a dramatic decrease in the ability of all four discodermolide analogs to initiate tubulin polymerization. Two of the analogs also demonstrated a decrease in total tubulin polymerization, while a change in the olefin geometry at the C8 position produced a significant decrease in cytotoxic activity. Conclusions: The availability of (+)-discodermolide and the analogs, and the resultant SAR analysis, have permitted an exploration of the similarities and differences between (+)-discodermolide and Taxol. Docking of the X-ray/solution structure of (+)-discodermolide into the Taxol binding site of β-tubulin revealed two possible binding modes (models I and II). The preferred pharmacophore model (I), in which the C19 side chain of (+)-discodermolide matches with the C2 benzoyl group of Taxol and the δ-lactone ring of (+)-discodermolide overlays with the C13 side chain of Taxol, concurred with the results of the SAR analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)843-855
Number of pages13
JournalChemistry and Biology
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2001


  • Discodermolide
  • Microtubule
  • Pharmacophore
  • Taxol

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Pharmacology
  • Drug Discovery
  • Clinical Biochemistry


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