4-Quinolone-3-carboxamide derivatives have long been recognized as potent and selective cannabinoid type-2 receptor (CB2R) ligands. With the aim to improve their physicochemical properties, basically aqueous solubility, two different approaches were followed, entailing the substitution of the alkyl chain with a basic replacement or scaffold modification to 4-hydroxy-2-quinolone structure. According to the first approach, compound 6d was obtained, showing slightly reduced receptor affinity (Ki = 60 nM) compared to the lead compound 4 (0.8 nM) but greatly enhanced solubility (400-3400 times depending on the pH of the medium). On the other hand, shifting from 4-quinolone to 4-hydroxy-2-quinolone structure enabled the discovery of a novel class of CB2R ligands, such as 7b and 7c, characterized by Ki < 1 nM and selectivity index [SI = Ki(CB1R)/Ki(CB2R)] > 1300. At pH 7.4, compound 7c resulted by 100-fold more soluble than 4.
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