Regions of insufficient oxygen supply-hypoxia-occur in diverse contexts across biology in both healthy and diseased organisms. The difference in the chemical environment between a hypoxic biological system and one with normal oxygen levels provides an opportunity for targeting compound delivery to hypoxic regions by using bioreductive prodrugs. Here we detail a protocol for the efficient synthesis of (1-methyl-2-nitro-1H-imidazol-5-yl)methanol, which is a key intermediate that can be converted into a range of 1-methyl-2-nitro-1H-imidazole-based precursors of bioreductive prodrugs. We outline methods for attaching the bioreductive group to a range of functionalities, and we discuss the strategy for positioning of the group on the biologically active parent compound. We have used two parent checkpoint kinase 1 (Chk1) inhibitors to exemplify the protocol. The PROCEDURE also describes a suite of reduction assays, of increasing biological relevance, to validate the bioreductive prodrug. These assays are applied to an exemplar compound, CH-01, which is a bioreductive Chk1 inhibitor. This protocol has broad applications to the development of hypoxia-targeted compounds.

Original publication




Journal article


Nat Protoc

Publication Date





781 - 794


Antineoplastic Agents, Cell Line, Tumor, Checkpoint Kinase 1, Enzyme Inhibitors, Humans, Hypoxia, Metronidazole, Prodrugs, Protein Kinases, Technology, Pharmaceutical