Structural basis for the inhibition of the essential Plasmodium falciparum M1 neutral aminopeptidase

National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences Of The United States Of America, 2009, 106 (8), pp. 2537 - 2542
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Plasmodium falciparum parasites are responsible for the major global disease malaria, which results in >2 million deaths each year. With the rise of drug-resistant malarial parasites, novel drug targets and lead compounds are urgently required for the development of new therapeutic strategies. Here, we address this important problem by targeting the malarial neutral aminopeptidases that are involved in the terminal stages of hemoglobin digestion and essential for the provision of amino acids used for parasite growth and development within the erythrocyte. We characterize the structure and substrate specificity of one such aminopeptidase, PfA-M1, a validated drug target. The X-ray crystal structure of PfA-M1 alone and in complex with the generic inhibitor, bestatin, and a phosphinate dipeptide analogue with potent in vitro and in vivo antimalarial activity, hPheP[CH2]Phe, reveals features within the protease active site that are critical to its function as an aminopeptidase and can be exploited for drug development. These results set the groundwork for the development of antimalarial therapeutics that target the neutral aminopeptidases of the parasite.
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