Piperine Derivatives Enhance Fusion and Axonal Transport of Mitochondria by Activating Mitofusins

Lihong Zhang, Xiawei Dang, Antonietta Franco, Haiyang Zhao, Gerald W. Dorn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Piperine (1-piperoylpiperidine) is the major pungent component of black pepper (Piper nigrum) and exhibits a spectrum of pharmacological activities. The molecular bases for many of piperine’s biological effects are incompletely defined. We noted that the chemical structure of piperine generally conforms to a pharmacophore model for small bioactive molecules that activate mitofusin (MFN)-mediated mitochondrial fusion. Piperine, but not its isomer chavicine, stimulated mitochon-drial fusion in MFN-deficient cells with EC50 of ~8 nM. We synthesized piperine analogs having structural features predicted to optimize mitofusin activation and defined structure-activity relationships (SAR) in live-cell mitochondrial elongation assays. When optimal spacing was maintained between amide and aromatic groups the derivatives were potent mitofusin activators. Compared to the prototype phenylhexanamide mitofusin activator, 2, novel molecules containing the piperi-dine structure of piperine exhibited markedly enhanced passive membrane permeability with no loss of fusogenic potency. Lead compounds 5 and 8 enhanced mitochondrial motility in cultured murine Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease type 2A (CMT2A) neurons, but only 8 improved mitochondrial transport in sciatic nerve axons of CMT2A mice. Piperine analogs represent a new chemical class of mitofusin activators with potential pharmaceutical advantages.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)655-668
Number of pages14
JournalChemistry (Switzerland)
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2022


  • Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease
  • mitochondrial fusion
  • mitochondrial transport
  • mitofusins
  • piperine


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