A small library of 2-[(1H-indol-3-yl)methyl]-5-(alkylthio)-1,3,4-oxadiazoles was prepared, starting from indole-3-acetic acid methyl ester and its 5-methyl-substituted derivative. The synthetic route involved the formation of intermediate hydrazides, their condensation with carbon disulfide, and intramolecular cyclization to corresponding 5-[(1H-indol-3-yl)methyl]-1,3,4-oxadiazole-2(3H)-thiones. The latter were then S-alkylated, and in case of ester derivatives, they were further hydrolyzed into corresponding carboxylic acids. All 5-[(1H-indol-3-yl)methyl]-1,3,4-oxadiazole-2(3H)-thiones and their S-alkylated derivatives were then screened for their protective effects in vitro and in vivo. Methyl substitution on the indole ring and propyl, butyl, or benzyl substitution on sulfhydryl group-possessing compounds were revealed to protect Friedreich's ataxia fibroblasts against the effects of glutathione depletion induced by the γ-glutamylcysteine synthetase inhibitor, buthionine sulfoximine. Two of the active compounds also reproducibly increased the survival of Caenorhabditis elegans exposed to juglone-induced oxidative stress.
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