A new series of simple endoperoxides, characterized by a 3-methoxy-1,2-dioxane scaffold, was designed on the basis of a previously developed pharmacophore. Through a simplified and versatile scheme of synthesis, which utilizes cheap and commercially available starting materials, it was possible to obtain several structurally and stereochemically different compounds that were tested against P. falciparum. Most of compounds showed antimalarial activity in the low micromolar range and no cellular toxicity, all being significantly more active on chloroquine resistant (CQ-R) than on chloroquine sensitive (CQ-S) strains. Resulting structure-activity relationships were analyzed by means of experimental and computational techniques, validating our design rationale and tailoring it for the new scaffold. Our study demonstrated that according to the hypothesized mechanism of action, the antimalarial activity can be improved through rational structural modifications, paving the way for the development of new simplified antimalarial endoperoxides.
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