Bitter taste receptors (hTAS2R) are expressed ectopically in various tissues, raising the possibility of a pharmacological exploitation. This seems of particular relevance in airways, since hTAS2Rs are involved in the protection of the aerial tissues from infections and in bronchodilation. The bis-guaianolide absinthin (1), one of the most bitter compounds known, targets the hTAS2R46 bitter receptor. Absinthin (1), an unstable compound, readily turns into anabsinthin (2) with substantial retention of the bitter properties, and this compound was used as a starting material to explore the chemical space around the bis-guaianolide bitter pharmacophore. Capitalizing on the chemoselective opening of the allylic lactone ring, the esters 3 and 4, and the nor-azide 6 were prepared and assayed on human bronchoepithelial (BEAS-2B) cells expressing hTAS2R46. Anti-inflammatory activity was evaluated by measuring the expression of MUC5AC, iNOS, and cytokines, as well as the production of superoxide anion, qualifying the methyl ester 3 as the best candidate for additional studies.
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