Human African trypanosomiasis (HAT), a parasitic protozoal disease, is caused primarily by two subspecies of Trypanosoma brucei. HAT is a re-emerging disease and currently threatens millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa. Many affected people live in remote areas with limited access to health services and, therefore, rely on traditional herbal medicines for treatment.
A molecular docking study has been carried out on phytochemical agents that have been previously isolated and characterized from Nigerian medicinal plants, either known to be used ethnopharmacologically to treat parasitic infections or known to have in-vitro antitrypanosomal activity. A total of 386 compounds from 19 species of medicinal plants were investigated using in-silico molecular docking with validated Trypanosoma brucei protein targets that were available from the Protein Data Bank (PDB): Adenosine kinase (TbAK), pteridine reductase 1 (TbPTR1), dihydrofolate reductase (TbDHFR), trypanothione reductase (TbTR), cathepsin B (TbCatB), heat shock protein 90 (TbHSP90), sterol 14α-demethylase (TbCYP51), nucleoside hydrolase (TbNH), triose phosphate isomerase (TbTIM), nucleoside 2-deoxyribosyltransferase (TbNDRT), UDP-galactose 4′ epimerase (TbUDPGE), and ornithine decarboxylase (TbODC).
This study revealed that triterpenoid and steroid ligands were largely selective for sterol 14α-demethylase; anthraquinones, xanthones, and berberine alkaloids docked strongly to pteridine reductase 1 (TbPTR1); chromenes, pyrazole and pyridine alkaloids preferred docking to triose phosphate isomerase (TbTIM); and numerous indole alkaloids showed notable docking energies with UDP-galactose 4′ epimerase (TbUDPGE). Polyphenolic compounds such as flavonoid gallates or flavonoid glycosides tended to be promiscuous docking agents, giving strong docking energies with most proteins.
This in-silico molecular docking study has identified potential biomolecular targets of phytochemical components of antitrypanosomal plants and has determined which phytochemical classes and structural manifolds likely target trypanosomal enzymes. The results could provide the framework for synthetic modification of bioactive phytochemicals, de novo synthesis of structural motifs, and lead to further phytochemical investigations.
Traditional herbal medicine continues to play a key role in health, particularly in remote areas with limited access to “modern medicines”. Many plants are used in traditional Nigerian medicine to treat parasitic diseases. While many of these plants have shown notable activity against parasitic protozoa, in most cases the mode of activity is not known. That is, it is not known what biochemical entities are being targeted by the plant chemical constituents. In this work, we have carried out molecular docking studies of known phytochemicals from Nigerian medicinal plants used to treat human African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) with known biochemical targets in the Trypanosoma brucei parasite. The goals of this study were to identify the protein targets that the medicinal plants are affecting and to discern general trends in protein target selectivity for phytochemical classes. In doing so, we have theoretically identified strongly interacting plant chemicals and their biomolecular targets. These results should lead to further research to verify the efficacy of the phytochemical agents as well as delineate possible modifications of the active compounds to increase potency or selectivity.