Author(s): Prasad R, Atul, Kolla VK, Legac J, Singhal N,
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Abstract Among key potential drug target proteolytic systems in the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum are falcipains, a family of hemoglobin-degrading cysteine proteases, and the ubiquitin proteasomal system (UPS), which has fundamental importance in cellular protein turnover. Inhibition of falcipains blocks parasite development, primarily due to inhibition of hemoglobin degradation that serves as a source of amino acids for parasite growth. Falcipains prefer P2 leucine in substrates and peptides, and their peptidyl inhibitors with leucine at the P2 position show potent antimalarial activity. The peptidyl inhibitor MG132 (Z-Leu-Leu-Leu-CHO) is a widely used proteasome inhibitor, which also has P2 leucine, and has also been shown to inhibit parasite development. However, the antimalarial targets of MG132 are unclear. We investigated whether MG132 blocks malaria parasite development by inhibiting hemoglobin degradation and/or by targeting the UPS. P. falciparum was cultured with inhibitors of the UPS (MG132, epoxomicin, and lactacystin) or falcipains (E64), and parasites were assessed for morphologies, extent of hemoglobin degradation, and accumulation of ubiquitinated proteins. MG132, like E64 and unlike epoxomicin or lactacystin, blocked parasite development, with enlargement of the food vacuole and accumulation of undegraded hemoglobin, indicating inhibition of hemoglobin degradation by MG132, most likely due to inhibition of hemoglobin-degrading falcipain cysteine proteases. Parasites cultured with epoxomicin or MG132 accumulated ubiquitinated proteins to a significantly greater extent than untreated or E64-treated parasites, indicating that MG132 inhibits the parasite UPS as well. Consistent with these findings, MG132 inhibited both cysteine protease and UPS activities present in soluble parasite extracts, and it strongly inhibited recombinant falcipains. MG132 was highly selective for inhibition of P. falciparum (IC50 0.0476 µM) compared to human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (IC50 10.8 µM). Thus, MG132 inhibits two distinct proteolytic systems in P. falciparum, and it may serve as a lead molecule for development of dual-target inhibitors of malaria parasites.
This article was published in PLoS One
and referenced in Malaria Control & Elimination