|Jmol-3D images||Image 1|
|Molar mass||186.16 g/mol|
|Melting point||158 to 161 °C (316 to 322 °F; 431 to 434 K)|
|Except where noted otherwise, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C (77 °F), 100 kPa)|
|(what is: / ?)|
Psoralen (also called psoralene) is the parent compound in a family of natural products known as furocoumarins. It is structurally related to coumarin by the addition of a fused furan ring, and may be considered as a derivative of umbelliferone. Psoralen occurs naturally in the seeds of Psoralea corylifolia, as well as in the common fig, celery, parsley, West Indian satinwood and in all citrus fruits. It is widely used in PUVA (Psoralen + UVA) treatment for psoriasis, eczema, vitiligo, and cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. Many furocoumarins are extremely toxic to fish, and some are deposited in streams in Indonesia to catch fish.
Psoralen is a mutagen, and is used for this purpose in molecular biology research. Psoralen intercalates into the DNA and, on exposure to ultraviolet (UVA) radiation, can form monoadducts and covalent interstrand cross-links (ICL) with thymines preferentially at 5'-TpA sites in the genome, inducing apoptosis. Psoralen plus UVA (PUVA) therapy has shown considerable clinical efficacy. Unfortunately, a side effect of PUVA treatment is a higher risk of skin cancer.
An important use of psoralen is in PUVA treatment for skin problems such as psoriasis and (to a lesser extent) eczema and vitiligo. This takes advantage of the high UV absorbance of psoralen. The psoralen is applied first to sensitise the skin, then UVA light is applied to clean up the skin problem. Psoralen has also been recommended for treating alopecia. Psoralens are also used in photopheresis, where they are mixed with the extracted leukocytes before UV radiation is applied.
Despite the photocarcinogenic properties of psoralen, it had been used as a tanning activator in sunscreens until 1996. Psoralens are used in tanning accelerators, although psoralen increases the skin’s sensitivity to light. Some patients have had severe skin loss after sunbathing with psoralen-containing tanning activators. Patients with lighter skin colour suffer four times as much from the melanoma-generating properties of psoralens than those with darker skin. The synthetic amino-psoralen, amotosalen HCl, has been developed for the inactivation of infectious pathogens (bacteria, viruses, protozoa) in platelet and plasma blood components prepared for transfusion support of patients. The technology is currently in routine use in certain European blood centers.
Psoralen intercalates into the DNA where it is ideally positioned to form covalent adduct(s) with adjacent pyrimidine bases, preferentially thymine, upon excitation by an ultraviolet photon.
Several physicochemical methods have been employed to derive binding constants for psoralen-DNA interactions. Classically, two chambers of psoralen and buffered DNA solution are partitioned by a semi-permeable membrane; the affinity of the psoralen for DNA is directly related to the concentration of the psoralen in the DNA chamber after equilibrium. Water solubility is important for two reasons: pharmokinetics relating to drug solubility in blood and necessitating the use of organic solvents (e.g. DMSO). Psoralens can also be activated by irradiation with long wavelength UV light. While UVA range light is the clinical standard, research that UVB is more efficient at forming photoadducts suggests that its use may lead to higher efficacy and lower treatment times.
The photochemically reactive sites in psoralens are located at each of the carbon-carbon double bonds in the furan ring (the five-member ring) and the pyrone ring (the six-member ring). When appropriately intercalated adjacent to a pyrimidine base, a four-center photocycloaddition reaction can lead to the formation of either of two cyclobutyl-type monoadducts. Ordinarily, furan-side monoadducts form in a higher proportion. The furan monoadduct can absorb a second UVA photon leading to a second four-center photocycloaddition at the pyrone end of the molecule and hence the formation of a diadduct or cross-link. Pyrone monoadducts do not absorb in the UVA range and hence cannot form cross-links with further UVA irradiation.
Another important feature of this class of compounds is their ability to generate singlet oxygen, although this process is in direct competition with adduct formation and may be an alternate pathway for the dissipation of excited state energy.
Research on psoralen has historically focused on interactions with DNA and RNA (in particular, ICL formation). Psoralen, however, has also been shown to block signaling of the ErbB2 receptor which is overexpressed in certain aggressive types of breast cancer. A synthetic derivative of 5-MOP, 5-(4-phenoxybutoxy)psoralen, shows promise as an immunosupressent by inhibiting a specific potassium channel. Its structure prevents intercalation into DNA, and it only very weakly produces singlet oxygen, majorly reducing unwanted toxicity and mutagenicity in vivo. This has implications for the treatment of various autoimmune diseases (e.g. multiple sclerosis, type-1 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis). While cell-surface modification and ion channel blocking are two newly discovered mechanisms of action, much research remains to be done.
One isomer of psoralen is angelicin, and most furocoumarins can be regarded as derivatives of psoralen or angelicin. Important psoralen derivatives include Imperatorin, xanthotoxin, bergapten and nodakenetin.
The structure of psoralen was originally deduced by identifying the products of its degradation reactions. It exhibits the normal reactions of the lactone of coumarin, such as ring opening by alkali to give a coumarinic acid or coumaric acid derivative. Potassium permanganate causes oxidation of the furan ring, while other methods of oxidation produce furan-2,3-carboxylic acid.
Psoralen is difficult to synthesize due the fact that umbelliferone undergoes substitution at the 8-position rather than at the desired 6 position. Benzofuran reacts preferentially in the furan ring rather than in the benzene ring. However, the 7-hydroxy derivative of 2,3-dihydrobenzofuran (also called coumaran) does undergo substitution at the desired 6-position allowing the following synthesis of the coumarin system via a Gattermann-Koch reaction followed by a Perkin condensation using acetic anhydride. The synthesis is then completed by dehydrogenation of the five-membered ring to produce the furan ring.
Psoralen originates from coumarins in the shikimate pathway; its biosynthesis is shown in the figure below. The aromatic ring in 6 is activated at positions ortho to the hydroxyl group, and is alkylated by 5, an alkylating agent. The dimethylallyl group in 7 then undergoes cyclization with the phenol group to give 8. This transformation is catalysed by a cytochome P-450-dependent monooxygenase17 (psoralen 5-monooxygenase), and cofactors (NADPH) and molecular oxygen.
A biosynthetic pathway in which psoralen is formed is shown in the figure below. A second P-450-dependent monooxygenase enzyme (psoralen synthase) then cleaves off 10 (in the form of 11) from 8 to give 1. This pathway does not involve any hydroxylated intermediate, and cleavage is postulated to be initiated by a radical reaction.
Ficus carica (fig) is probably the most abundant source of psoralens. They are also found in small quantities in Ammi visnaga (bisnaga), Pastinaca sativa (parsnip), Petroselinum crispum (parsley), Levisticum officinale (lovage), Foeniculum vulgare (fruit, i.e., fennel seeds), Daucus carota (carrot), Psoralea corylifolia (babchi), and Apium graveolens (celery).
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