Leishmaniasis remains one of the ten Neglected Tropical Diseases with significant morbidity and mortality in humans. Current treatment of visceral leishmaniasis is difficult due to a lack of effective, non-toxic, and non-extensive medications. This study aimed to evaluate the selectivity of 12 synthetic endoperoxides (1,2,4-trioxolanes; 1,2,4,5-tetraoxanes) and uncover their biochemical effects on Leishmania parasites responsible for visceral leishmaniasis. The compounds were screened for in vitro activity against L. infantum and L. donovani and for cytotoxicity in two monocytic cell lines (J774A.1 and THP-1) using the methyl thiazol tetrazolium assay. Reactive oxygen species formation, apoptosis, and mitochondrial impairment were measured by flow cytometry. The compounds exhibited fair to moderate anti-proliferative activity against promastigotes of the 2 Leishmania species, with IC50 values ranging from 13.0 ± 1.7 µM to 793.0 ± 37.2 µM. Tetraoxanes LC132 and LC138 demonstrated good leishmanicidal activity on L. infantum amastigotes (IC50 13.2 ± 5.2 and 23.9 ± 2.7 µM) with low cytotoxicity in mammalian cells (SIs 22.1 and 118.6), indicating selectivity towards the parasite. Furthermore, LC138 was able to induce late apoptosis and dose-dependent oxidative stress without affecting mithocondria. Compounds LC132 and LC138 can be further explored as potential antileishmanial chemotypes.
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