Anti-Trypanosoma Activity and Synergistic Effects of Natural and Semi-Synthetic Triterpenes and Predominant Cell Death through Autophagy in Amastigote Forms

<div><p>Chagas' disease is a parasitic disease with unsatisfactory treatment, mainly in chronic stage. This study aimed to evaluate the trypanocidal activity and action mechanisms of α/β-amyrin and its semi-synthetic derivatives, together with four isolated natural triterpenes, tested against trypomastigote and amastigote forms. The structure-activity relationship was suggested and cytotoxicity was measured. In general, greater polar compounds may have improved the selectivity to the protozoan. Action mechanisms were only performed for the amastigotes of Trypanosoma cruzi by evaluating the ultrastructural alterations, membrane permeability, mitochondrial membrane potential and cell volume, since the majority of compounds displayed promising antiamastigote activities. Triterpenes promoted changes on mitochondrial membrane potential and ultrastructural features that suggest autophagy processes. Both combinations between α/β-amyrin and 3-O-acetyl-11-oxo-α/β-amyrin and 3-O-acetyl-α/β-amyrin with benznidazole displayed synergistic effects against amastigotes and antagonistic effects on LLCMK2 cells. The antiamastigote activities, chemical derivatization, drug combinations and action mechanisms revealed to be crucial approaches toward this chronic disease.</p></div>