Volume 13 Supplement 1

Challenges in malaria research: Core science and innovation

Open Access

Discovering antimalarials with a differential mode of action

  • Laura Sanz1,
  • Maria Jose Lafuente1,
  • Sara Prats1,
  • Fernando Neria1,
  • María Roncalés1,
  • Cristina de Cózar1,
  • Ane Rodríguez1,
  • María Gómez1 and
  • Francisco Javier Gamo1
Malaria Journal201413(Suppl 1):P79

https://doi.org/10.1186/1475-2875-13-S1-P79

Published: 22 September 2014

Malaria is a global health problem that causes significant mortality and morbidity, with more than 1 million deaths per year caused by P. falciparum. Most antimalarial drugs face decreased efficacy due to the emergence of resistant parasites. Therefore, the efforts to improve current treatments are focused on the identification of new antimalarial drugs displaying novel mechanisms of action.

To increase the probability of success to identify compounds active against all relevant parasite drug targets, phenotypic assays have been used to screen large compound libraries against P. falciparum blood stages. At GSK, 2M compounds were screened and 13500 confirmed hits (TCAMS-Tres Cantos Antimalarial Set) were selected which inhibited P. falciparum growth with IC50s below 2 μM.

In order to select chemotypes with a presumptive novel mechanism of action, an early profiling is carried out which involves several phases:

1. In the first phase, compounds are tested against a wide panel of P. falciparum strains with well characterized genetic linkage to drug resistance to establish which series had no cross-resistance with already known antimalarial compounds. Panel includes laboratory strains as well as clinical isolates.

2. In a second phase, compounds are tested using functional assays to identify those molecules interfering with parasite pathways that are targets of already known antimalarials (electron transport, folate and isoprenoid). Both mitochondrial electron transport and pyrimidine biosynthesis inhibitors are identified using transgenic parasites overexpressing Saccharomyces cerevisiae DHODH. Addition of proguanil to cultures restores cytochrome bc1 blockage but not DHODH inhibition. Antifolates are identified by supplementing the growth medium with folic acid and, similarly, inhibitors of the isoprenoid biosynthesis pathway by adding geranyl geranyol or isopentenyl pyrophosphate, which shifts the IC50 of inhibitors of these pathways.

3. Finally compounds are subjected to hematin polymerization assays to establish the interference with this essential pharmacological target of malaria parasites.

New scaffolds with novel modes of action can be selected using these approaches avoiding the interference with pathways which are known to develop resistance. This strategy has already been succesful and our current antimalarial pipeline is based on scaffolds displaying new mechanisms of action. Chemoproteomics and chemical genomics efforts are being used to decipher new MoA.

Authors’ Affiliations

(1)
Malaria DPU, Diseases of the Developing World (DDW), GlaxoSmithKline

Copyright

© Sanz et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2014

This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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