Whole-Cell Phenotypic Screening of Medicines for Malaria Venture Pathogen Box Identifies Specific Inhibitors of Plasmodium falciparum Late-Stage Development and Egress.
ABSTRACT: We report a systematic, cellular phenotype-based antimalarial screening of the Medicines for Malaria Venture Pathogen Box collection, which facilitated the identification of specific blockers of late-stage intraerythrocytic development of Plasmodium falciparum First, from standard growth inhibition assays, we identified 173 molecules with antimalarial activity (50% effective concentration [EC50] ? 10??M), which included 62 additional molecules over previously known antimalarial candidates from the Pathogen Box. We identified 90 molecules with EC50 of ?1??M, which had significant effect on the ring-trophozoite transition, while 9 molecules inhibited the trophozoite-schizont transition and 21 molecules inhibited the schizont-ring transition (with ?50% parasites failing to proceed to the next stage) at 1??M. We therefore rescreened all 173 molecules and validated hits in microscopy to prioritize 12 hits as selective blockers of the schizont-ring transition. Seven of these molecules inhibited the calcium ionophore-induced egress of Toxoplasma gondii, a related apicomplexan parasite, suggesting that the inhibitors may be acting via a conserved mechanism which could be further exploited for target identification studies. We demonstrate that two molecules, MMV020670 and MMV026356, identified as schizont inhibitors in our screens, induce the fragmentation of DNA in merozoites, thereby impairing their ability to egress and invade. Further mechanistic studies would facilitate the therapeutic exploitation of these molecules as broadly active inhibitors targeting late-stage development and egress of apicomplexan parasites relevant to human health.
Project description:An antimalarial screen for plants collected from Papua New Guinea identified an extract of Horsfieldia spicata as having activity. Isolation of the active constituents led to the identification of two new compounds: myristicyclins A (1) and B (2). Both compounds are procyanidin-like congeners of myristinins lacking a pendant aromatic ring. Myristicyclin A was found to inhibit the ring, trophozoite, and schizont stages of Plasmodium falciparum at similar concentrations in the mid-?M range.
Project description:Eukaryotic cellular machineries are intricately regulated by several molecular mechanisms involving transcriptional control, post-translational control and post-translational modifications of proteins (PTMs). Reversible protein phosphorylation/dephosphorylation process, which involves kinases as well as phosphatases, represents an important regulatory mechanism for diverse pathways and systems in all organisms including human malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum. Earlier analysis on P. falciparum protein-phosphatome revealed presence of 34 phosphatases in Plasmodium genome. Recently, we re-analysed P. falciparum phosphatome aimed at identifying parasite specific phosphatases.Plasmodium database (PlasmoDB 9.2) search, combined with PFAM and CDD searches, revealed 67 candidate phosphatases in P. falciparum. While this number is far less than the number of phosphatases present in Homo sapiens, it is almost the same as in other Plasmodium species. These Plasmodium phosphatase proteins were classified into 13 super families based on NCBI CDD search. Analysis of proteins expression profiles of the 67 phosphatases revealed that 44 phosphatases are expressed in both schizont as well as gametocytes stages. Fourteen phosphatases are common in schizont, ring and trophozoite stages, four phosphatases are restricted to gametocytes, whereas another three restricted to schizont stage. The phylogenetic trees for each of the known phosphatase super families reveal a considerable phylogenetic closeness amongst apicomplexan organisms and a considerable phylogenetic distance with other eukaryotic model organisms included in the study. The GO assignments and predicted interaction partners of the parasite phosphatases indicate its important role in diverse cellular processes.In the study presented here, we reviewed the P. falciparum phosphatome to show presence of 67 candidate phosphatases in P. falciparum genomes/proteomes. Intriguingly, amongst these phosphatases, we could identify six Plasmodium specific phosphatases and 33 putative phosphatases that do not have human orthologs, thereby suggesting that these phosphatases have the potential to be explored as novel antimalarial drug targets.
Project description:Murine models are used to study erythrocytic stages of malaria infection, because parasite morphology and development are comparable to those in human malaria infections. Mechanism-based pharmacokinetic-pharmacodynamic (PK-PD) models for antimalarials are scarce, despite their potential to optimize antimalarial combination therapy. The aim of this study was to develop a mechanism-based growth model (MBGM) for Plasmodium berghei and then characterize the parasiticidal effect of dihydroartemisinin (DHA) in murine malaria (MBGM-PK-PD). Stage-specific (ring, early trophozoite, late trophozoite, and schizont) parasite density data from Swiss mice inoculated with Plasmodium berghei were used for model development in S-ADAPT. A single dose of intraperitoneal DHA (10 to 100 mg/kg) or vehicle was administered 56 h postinoculation. The MBGM explicitly reflected all four erythrocytic stages of the 24-hour P. berghei life cycle. Merozoite invasion of erythrocytes was described by a first-order process that declined with increasing parasitemia. An efflux pathway with subsequent return was additionally required to describe the schizont data, thus representing parasite sequestration or trapping in the microvasculature, with a return to circulation. A 1-compartment model with zero-order absorption described the PK of DHA, with an estimated clearance and distribution volume of 1.95 liters h(-1) and 0.851 liter, respectively. Parasite killing was described by a turnover model, with DHA inhibiting the production of physiological intermediates (IC(50), 1.46 ng/ml). Overall, the MBGM-PK-PD described the rise in parasitemia, the nadir following DHA dosing, and subsequent parasite resurgence. This novel model is a promising tool for studying malaria infections, identifying the stage specificity of antimalarials, and providing insight into antimalarial treatment strategies.
Project description:To identify the developmentally regulated genes, which could confound identification of PN and CQ drug responsive genes, RNA samples from drug-free synchronized cultures from ring, trophozoite, and schizont stages were individually labelled and hybridized with a pooled sample from the three stages. The data from this experiment were used to compare the developmental profile of the K1 strain with the data from other P. falciparum strains. Overall design: 9 samples were obtained from three developmental stages of parasite development (3 each from ring, trophozoite and schizont synchronized parasites). Three independent cultures were obtained, synchronized on different days.
Project description:To identify the developmentally regulated genes, which could confound identification of PN and CQ drug responsive genes, RNA samples from drug-free synchronized cultures from ring, trophozoite, and schizont stages were individually labelled and hybridized with a pooled sample from the three stages. The data from this experiment were used to compare the developmental profile of the K1 strain with the data from other P. falciparum strains. 9 samples were obtained from three developmental stages of parasite development (3 each from ring, trophozoite and schizont synchronized parasites). Three independent cultures were obtained, synchronized on different days.
Project description:Glucose is an essential nutrient for Plasmodium falciparum and robust glycolytic activity is indicative of viable parasites. Using NMR spectroscopy, we show that P. falciparum infected erythrocytes consume ~20 times more glucose, and trophozoites metabolize ~6 times more glucose than ring stage parasites. The glycolytic activity, and hence parasite viability, can be measured within a period of 2?h to 5?h, using this method. This facilitates antimalarial bioactivity screening on ring and trophozoite stage parasites, exclusively. We demonstrate this using potent and mechanistically distinct antimalarial compounds such as chloroquine, atovaquone, cladosporin, DDD107498 and artemisinin. Our findings indicate that ring stage parasites are inherently more tolerant to antimalarial inhibitors, a feature which may facilitate emergence of drug resistance. Thus, there is a need to discover novel antimalarial compounds, which are potent and fast acting against ring stage parasites. The NMR method reported here can facilitate the identification of such molecules.
Project description:Merozoites of malaria parasites invade red blood cells (RBCs), where they multiply by schizogony, undergoing development through ring, trophozoite and schizont stages that are responsible for malaria pathogenesis. Here, we report that a protein kinase-mediated signalling pathway involving host RBC PAK1 and MEK1, which do not have orthologues in the Plasmodium kinome, is selectively stimulated in Plasmodium falciparum-infected (versus uninfected) RBCs, as determined by the use of phospho-specific antibodies directed against the activated forms of these enzymes. Pharmacological interference with host MEK and PAK function using highly specific allosteric inhibitors in their known cellular IC50 ranges results in parasite death. Furthermore, MEK inhibitors have parasiticidal effects in vitro on hepatocyte and erythrocyte stages of the rodent malaria parasite Plasmodium berghei, indicating conservation of this subversive strategy in malaria parasites. These findings have profound implications for the development of novel strategies for antimalarial chemotherapy.
Project description:According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Plasmodium falciparum is the deadliest parasite among all species. This parasite possesses the ability to sense molecules, including melatonin (MEL) and cAMP, and modulate its cell cycle accordingly. MEL synchronizes the development of this malaria parasite by activating several cascades, including the generation of the second messenger cAMP. Therefore, we performed RNA sequencing (RNA-Seq) analysis in P. falciparum erythrocytic stages (ring, trophozoite and schizont) treated with MEL and cAMP. To investigate the expression profile of P. falciparum genes regulated by MEL and cAMP, we performed RNA-Seq analysis in three P. falciparum strains (control, 3D7; protein kinase 7 knockout, PfPK7-; and PfPK7 complement, PfPK7C). In the 3D7 strain, 38 genes were differentially expressed upon MEL treatment; however, none of the genes in the trophozoite (T) stage PfPK7- knockout parasites were differentially expressed upon MEL treatment for 5 hours compared to untreated controls, suggesting that PfPK7 may be involved in the signaling leading to differential gene expression. Moreover, we found that MEL modified the mRNA expression of genes encoding membrane proteins, zinc ion-binding proteins and nucleic acid-binding proteins, which might influence numerous functions in the parasite. The RNA-Seq data following treatment with cAMP show that this molecule modulates different genes throughout the intraerythrocytic cycle, namely, 75, 101 and 141 genes, respectively, in the ring (R), T and schizont (S) stages. Our results highlight P. falciparum's perception of the external milieu through the signaling molecules MEL and cAMP, which are able to drive to changes in gene expression in the parasite.
Project description:We screened a collection of synthetic compounds consisting of natural-product-like substructural motifs to identify a spirocyclic chromane as a novel antiplasmodial pharmacophore using an unbiased cell-based assay. The most active spirocyclic compound UCF 201 exhibits a 50% effective concentration (EC50) of 350 nM against the chloroquine-resistant Dd2 strain and a selectivity over 50 using human liver HepG2 cells. Our analyses of physicochemical properties of UCF 201 showed that it is in compliance with Lipinski's parameters and has an acceptable physicochemical profile. We have performed a limited structure-activity-relationship study with commercially available chromanes preserving the spirocyclic motif. Our evaluation of stage specificities of UCF 201 indicated that the compound is early-acting in blocking parasite development at ring, trophozoite and schizont stages of development as well as merozoite invasion. SPC is an attractive lead candidate scaffold because of its ability to act on all stages of parasite's aexual life cycle unlike current antimalarials.
Project description:We have isolated a novel protein kinase cDNA, PfPK6, by differential display RT-PCR (DDRT-PCR) of mRNA obtained from different asexual erythrocytic stages of Plasmodium falciparum, which shows sequence similarity to both cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK) and mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) family members. The 915 bp open reading frame (ORF) is interrupted by seven introns and encodes a 305-residue polypeptide with a predicted molecular mass of 35848 Da. Several cDNA clones with some of the intron sequences were isolated, indicating alternate or defective splicing of PfPK6 transcripts because the gene seems to be a single copy located on chromosome 13. The similarity of the catalytic domain of PfPK6 to those of CDK2 and MAPK is 57.3% and 49.6%, respectively. The signature PSTAIRE (single-letter amino acid codes) CDK motif is changed to SKCILRE in PfPK6. The TXY residues that are phosphorylated in MAPKs for their activation are T(173)PT in PfPK6. Three size classes of PfPK6 transcripts of 6.5, 2.0 and 1.1 kb are up-regulated during the transition of P. falciparum from ring to trophozoite. Western blot analysis suggested the expression of a 35 kDa polypeptide in trophozoites and schizonts. Immunofluorescence studies indicated both nuclear and cytoplasmic localization of PfPK6 in trophozoite, schizont and segmenter stages. In vitro, recombinant PfPK6 phosphorylated itself and also exogenous substrates, histone and the small subunit of the malarial ribonucleotide reductase (R2). The kinase activity of PfPK6 is sensitive to CDK inhibitors such as olomoucine and roscovitine. PfPK6 showed a preference for Mn(2+) over Mg(2+) ions as a cofactor. The Lys(38)-->Arg mutant is severely defective in its interaction with ATP and bivalent cations and somewhat defective in catalytic rate for R2 phosphorylation.