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1.  Dissecting the Metabolic Roles of Pteridine Reductase 1 in Trypanosoma brucei and Leishmania major* 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2011;286(12):10429-10438.
Leishmania parasites are pteridine auxotrophs that use an NADPH-dependent pteridine reductase 1 (PTR1) and NADH-dependent quinonoid dihydropteridine reductase (QDPR) to salvage and maintain intracellular pools of tetrahydrobiopterin (H4B). However, the African trypanosome lacks a credible candidate QDPR in its genome despite maintaining apparent QDPR activity. Here we provide evidence that the NADH-dependent activity previously reported by others is an assay artifact. Using an HPLC-based enzyme assay, we demonstrate that there is an NADPH-dependent QDPR activity associated with both TbPTR1 and LmPTR1. The kinetic properties of recombinant PTR1s are reported at physiological pH and ionic strength and compared with LmQDPR. Specificity constants (kcat/Km) for LmPTR1 are similar with dihydrobiopterin (H2B) and quinonoid dihydrobiopterin (qH2B) as substrates and about 20-fold lower than LmQDPR with qH2B. In contrast, TbPTR1 shows a 10-fold higher kcat/Km for H2B over qH2B. Analysis of Trypanosoma brucei isolated from infected rats revealed that H4B (430 nm, 98% of total biopterin) was the predominant intracellular pterin, consistent with a dual role in the salvage and regeneration of H4B. Gene knock-out experiments confirmed this: PTR1-nulls could only be obtained from lines overexpressing LmQDPR with H4B as a medium supplement. These cells grew normally with H4B, which spontaneously oxidizes to qH2B, but were unable to survive in the absence of pterin or with either biopterin or H2B in the medium. These findings establish that PTR1 has an essential and dual role in pterin metabolism in African trypanosomes and underline its potential as a drug target.
PMCID: PMC3060496  PMID: 21239486
Enzyme Kinetics; Gene Knockout; Parasite Metabolism; Pterin; Trypanosome; Biopterin; Leishmania; Pteridine Reductase; Quinonoid Pteridine Reductase; Substrate Inhibition
2.  In-silico Investigation of Antitrypanosomal Phytochemicals from Nigerian Medicinal Plants 
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.
Author Summary
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.
PMCID: PMC3404109  PMID: 22848767
3.  Structure-Based Design of Pteridine Reductase Inhibitors Targeting African Sleeping Sickness and the Leishmaniases† 
Journal of Medicinal Chemistry  2009;53(1):221-229.
Pteridine reductase (PTR1) is a target for drug development against Trypanosoma and Leishmania species, parasites that cause serious tropical diseases and for which therapies are inadequate. We adopted a structure-based approach to the design of novel PTR1 inhibitors based on three molecular scaffolds. A series of compounds, most newly synthesized, were identified as inhibitors with PTR1-species specific properties explained by structural differences between the T. brucei and L. major enzymes. The most potent inhibitors target T. brucei PTR1, and two compounds displayed antiparasite activity against the bloodstream form of the parasite. PTR1 contributes to antifolate drug resistance by providing a molecular bypass of dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR) inhibition. Therefore, combining PTR1 and DHFR inhibitors might improve therapeutic efficacy. We tested two new compounds with known DHFR inhibitors. A synergistic effect was observed for one particular combination highlighting the potential of such an approach for treatment of African sleeping sickness.
PMCID: PMC2804273  PMID: 19916554
4.  Trypanosoma brucei pteridine reductase 1 is essential for survival in vitro and for virulence in mice 
Molecular Microbiology  2010;77(3):658-671.
Gene knockout and knockdown methods were used to examine essentiality of pteridine reductase (PTR1) in pterin metabolism in the African trypanosome. Attempts to generate PTR1 null mutants in bloodstream form Trypanosoma brucei proved unsuccessful; despite integration of drug selectable markers at the target locus, the gene for PTR1 was either retained at the same locus or elsewhere in the genome. However, RNA interference (RNAi) resulted in complete knockdown of endogenous protein after 48 h, followed by cell death after 4 days. This lethal phenotype was reversed by expression of enzymatically active Leishmania major PTR1 in RNAi lines (oeRNAi) or by addition of tetrahydrobiopterin to cultures. Loss of PTR1 was associated with gross morphological changes due to a defect in cytokinesis, resulting in cells with multiple nuclei and kinetoplasts, as well as multiple detached flagella. Electron microscopy also revealed increased numbers of glycosomes, while immunofluorescence microscopy showed increased and more diffuse staining for glycosomal matrix enzymes, indicative of mis-localisation to the cytosol. Mis-localisation was confirmed by digitonin fractionation experiments. RNAi cell lines were markedly less virulent than wild-type parasites in mice and virulence was restored in the oeRNAi line. Thus, PTR1 may be a drug target for human African trypanosomiasis.
PMCID: PMC2916222  PMID: 20545846
5.  Design, Synthesis and Biological Evaluation of Novel Inhibitors of Trypanosoma brucei Pteridine Reductase 1 
Chemmedchem  2010;6(2):302-308.
Genetic studies indicate that the enzyme pteridine reductase 1 (PTR1) is essential for the survival of the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma brucei. Herein, we describe the development and optimisation of a novel series of PTR1 inhibitors, based on benzo[d]imidazol-2-amine derivatives. Data are reported on 33 compounds. This series was initially discovered by a virtual screening campaign (J. Med. Chem., 2009, 52, 4454). The inhibitors adopted an alternative binding mode to those of the natural ligands, biopterin and dihydrobiopterin, and classical inhibitors, such as methotrexate. Using both rational medicinal chemistry and structure-based approaches, we were able to derive compounds with potent activity against T. brucei PTR1 (=7 nm), which had high selectivity over both human and T. brucei dihydrofolate reductase. Unfortunately, these compounds displayed weak activity against the parasites. Kinetic studies and analysis indicate that the main reason for the lack of cell potency is due to the compounds having insufficient potency against the enzyme, which can be seen from the low Km to Ki ratio (Km=25 nm and Ki=2.3 nm, respectively).
PMCID: PMC3047710  PMID: 21275054
antiprotozoal agents; drug discovery; pteridine reductase; structure-based drug design; Trypanosoma brucei
6.  Chemical and genetic validation of dihydrofolate reductase–thymidylate synthase as a drug target in African trypanosomes 
Molecular Microbiology  2008;69(2):520-533.
The phenotypes of single- (SKO) and double-knockout (DKO) lines of dihydrofolate reductase–thymidylate synthase (DHFR–TS) of bloodstream Trypanosoma brucei were evaluated in vitro and in vivo. Growth of SKO in vitro is identical to wild-type (WT) cells, whereas DKO has an absolute requirement for thymidine. Removal of thymidine from the medium triggers growth arrest in S phase, associated with gross morphological changes, followed by cell death after 60 h. DKO is unable to infect mice, whereas the virulence of SKO is similar to WT. Normal growth and virulence could be restored by transfection of DKO with T. brucei DHFR–TS, but not with Escherichia coli TS. As pteridine reductase (PTR1) levels are unchanged in SKO and DKO cells, PTR1 is not able to compensate for loss of DHFR activity. Drugs such as raltitrexed or methotrexate with structural similarity to folic acid are up to 300-fold more potent inhibitors of WT cultured in a novel low-folate medium, unlike hydrophobic antifols such as trimetrexate or pyrimethamine. DKO trypanosomes show reduced sensitivity to these inhibitors ranging from twofold for trimetrexate to >10 000-fold for raltitrexed. These data demonstrate that DHFR–TS is essential for parasite survival and represents a promising target for drug discovery.
PMCID: PMC2610392  PMID: 18557814
7.  One Scaffold, Three Binding Modes: Novel and Selective Pteridine Reductase 1 Inhibitors Derived from Fragment Hits Discovered by Virtual Screening† 
Journal of Medicinal Chemistry  2009;52(14):4454-4465.
The enzyme pteridine reductase 1 (PTR1) is a potential target for new compounds to treat human African trypanosomiasis. A virtual screening campaign for fragments inhibiting PTR1 was carried out. Two novel chemical series were identified containing aminobenzothiazole and aminobenzimidazole scaffolds, respectively. One of the hits (2-amino-6-chloro-benzimidazole) was subjected to crystal structure analysis and a high resolution crystal structure in complex with PTR1 was obtained, confirming the predicted binding mode. However, the crystal structures of two analogues (2-amino-benzimidazole and 1-(3,4-dichloro-benzyl)-2-amino-benzimidazole) in complex with PTR1 revealed two alternative binding modes. In these complexes, previously unobserved protein movements and water-mediated protein−ligand contacts occurred, which prohibited a correct prediction of the binding modes. On the basis of the alternative binding mode of 1-(3,4-dichloro-benzyl)-2-amino-benzimidazole, derivatives were designed and selective PTR1 inhibitors with low nanomolar potency and favorable physicochemical properties were obtained.
PMCID: PMC2966039  PMID: 19527033
8.  Structure-Based Design and Synthesis of Antiparasitic Pyrrolopyrimidines Targeting Pteridine Reductase 1 
Journal of Medicinal Chemistry  2014;57(15):6479-6494.
The treatment of Human African trypanosomiasis remains a major unmet health need in sub-Saharan Africa. Approaches involving new molecular targets are important; pteridine reductase 1 (PTR1), an enzyme that reduces dihydrobiopterin in Trypanosoma spp., has been identified as a candidate target, and it has been shown previously that substituted pyrrolo[2,3-d]pyrimidines are inhibitors of PTR1 from Trypanosoma brucei (J. Med. Chem.2010, 53, 221–229). In this study, 61 new pyrrolo[2,3-d]pyrimidines have been prepared, designed with input from new crystal structures of 23 of these compounds complexed with PTR1, and evaluated in screens for enzyme inhibitory activity against PTR1 and in vitro antitrypanosomal activity. Eight compounds were sufficiently active in both screens to take forward to in vivo evaluation. Thus, although evidence for trypanocidal activity in a stage I disease model in mice was obtained, the compounds were too toxic to mice for further development.
PMCID: PMC4136963  PMID: 25007262
9.  Molecular Cloning, Expression and Enzymatic Assay of Pteridine Reductase 1 from Iranian Lizard Leishmania 
Iranian Biomedical Journal  2010;14(3):97-102.
Background: Currently, there are no effective vaccines against leishmaniasis, and treatment using pentavalent antimonial drugs is occasionally effective and often toxic for patients. The PTR1 enzyme, which causes antifolate drug resistance in Leishmania parasites encoded by gene pteridine reductase 1 (ptr1). Since Leishmania lacks pteridine and folate metabolism, it cannot synthesize the pteridine moiety from guanine triphosphate. Therefore, it must produce pteridine using PTR1, an essential part of the salvage pathway that reduces oxidized pteridines. Thus, PTR1 is a good drug-target candidate for anti-Leishmania chemotherapy. The aim of this study was the cloning, expression, and enzymatic assay of the ptr1 gene from Iranian lizard Leishmania as a model for further studies on Leishmania. Methods: Promastigote DNA was extracted from the Iranian lizard Leishmania, and the ptr1 gene was amplified using specific primers. The PCR product was cloned, transformed into Escherichia coli strain JM109, and expressed. The recombinant protein (PTR1 enzyme) was then purified and assayed. Results: ptr1 gene was successfully amplified and cloned into expression vector. Recombinant protein (PTR1 enzyme) was purified using affinity chromatography and confirmed by Western-blot and dot blot using anti-Leishmania major PTR1 antibody and anti-T7 tag monoclonal antibody, respectively. The enzymatic assay was confirmed as PTR1 witch performed using 6-biopterin as a substrate and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate as a coenzyme. Conclusion: Iranian lizard Leishmania ptr1 was expressed and enzymatic assay was performed successfully.
PMCID: PMC3904060  PMID: 21079660
Pteridine reductase 1 (PTR1); Leishmania; Gene expression
10.  Structure of recombinant Leishmania donovani pteridine reductase reveals a disordered active site 
The structure of L. donovani pteridine reductase has been targeted to assist in a program of structure-based inhibitor research. Crystals that diffracted to 2.5 Å resolution were obtained and the structure has been solved. Unfortunately, the active site is disordered and this crystal form is unsuitable for use in characterizing enzyme–ligand interactions.
Pteridine reductase (PTR1) is a potential target for drug development against parasitic Trypanosoma and Leishmania species, protozoa that are responsible for a range of serious diseases found in tropical and subtropical parts of the world. As part of a structure-based approach to inhibitor development, specifically targeting Leishmania species, well ordered crystals of L. donovani PTR1 were sought to support the characterization of complexes formed with inhibitors. An efficient system for recombinant protein production was prepared and the enzyme was purified and crystallized in an orthorhombic form with ammonium sulfate as the precipitant. Diffraction data were measured to 2.5 Å resolution and the structure was solved by molecular replacement. However, a sulfate occupies a phosphate-binding site used by NADPH and occludes cofactor binding. The nicotinamide moiety is a critical component of the active site and without it this part of the structure is disordered. The crystal form obtained under these conditions is therefore unsuitable for the characterization of inhibitor complexes.
PMCID: PMC3079966  PMID: 21206018
antifolates; pteridine reductase; Leishmania; pterins; Trypanosoma
11.  Development and validation of a cytochrome c-coupled assay for pteridine reductase 1 and dihydrofolate reductase 
Analytical Biochemistry  2010;396(2):194-203.
Activity of the pterin- and folate-salvaging enzymes pteridine reductase 1 (PTR1) and dihydrofolate reductase–thymidylate synthetase (DHFR-TS) is commonly measured as a decrease in absorbance at 340 nm, corresponding to oxidation of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH). Although this assay has been adequate to study the biology of these enzymes, it is not amenable to support any degree of routine inhibitor assessment because its restricted linearity is incompatible with enhanced throughput microtiter plate screening. In this article, we report the development and validation of a nonenzymatically coupled screening assay in which the product of the enzymatic reaction reduces cytochrome c, causing an increase in absorbance at 550 nm. We demonstrate this assay to be robust and accurate, and we describe its utility in supporting a structure-based design, small-molecule inhibitor campaign against Trypanosoma brucei PTR1 and DHFR-TS.
PMCID: PMC2789237  PMID: 19748480
Drug discovery; Screening; Pteridine reductase; Dihydrofolate reductase
12.  Role of the locus and of the resistance gene on gene amplification frequency in methotrexate resistant Leishmania tarentolae. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1999;27(18):3653-3659.
The protozoan parasite Leishmania resists the antifolate methotrexate (MTX) by amplifying the R locus dihydrofolate reductase-thymidylate synthase ( dhfr-ts ) gene, the H locus ptr1 pterin reductase gene, and finally by mutation in a common folate/MTX transporter. Amplification of dhfr-ts has never been observed in Leishmania tarentolae MTX resistant mutants while ptr1 amplification is common. We have selected a L.tarentolae ptr1 null mutant for MTX resistance and observed dhfr-ts amplification in this mutant demonstrating that once a preferred resistance mechanism is unavailable, a second one will take over. By introducing the ptr1 gene at the R locus and the dhfr-ts gene at the H locus by gene targeting, we investigated the role of the resistance gene and the locus on the rate of gene amplification. Transfection studies indicated that ptr1 gave higher levels of MTX resistance than dhfr-ts. Consistent with this, when ptr1 was present as part of either the H locus or the R locus it was invariably amplified, while dhfr-ts was only amplified when ptr1 was inactivated. When dhfr-ts was present in a ptr1 null background on both the H locus and the R locus, amplification from the H locus was more frequent suggesting that both the gene and the locus are determining the frequency of gene amplification in Leishmania.
PMCID: PMC148619  PMID: 10471733
13.  High-resolution structures of Trypanosoma brucei pteridine reductase ligand complexes inform on the placement of new molecular entities in the active site of a potential drug target 
Pteridine reductase (PTR1) is a potential target for drug development against parasitic Trypanosoma and Leishmania species. These protozoa cause serious diseases for which current therapies are inadequate. High-resolution structures have been determined, using data between 1.6 and 1.1 Å resolution, of T. brucei PTR1 in complex with pemetrexed, trimetrexate, cyromazine and a 2,4-diaminopyrimidine derivative. The structures provide insight into the interactions formed by new molecular entities in the enzyme active site with ligands that represent lead compounds for structure-based inhibitor development and to support early-stage drug discovery.
PMCID: PMC3655514  PMID: 21123874
14.  An orally effective dihydropyrimidone (DHPM) analogue induces apoptosis-like cell death in clinical isolates of Leishmania donovani overexpressing pteridine reductase 1 
Parasitology Research  2009;105(5):1317-1325.
The protozoan parasite Leishmania donovani is the causative agent of visceral leishmaniasis. The enzyme pteridine reductase 1 (PTR1) of L. donovani acts as a metabolic bypass for drugs targeting dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR); therefore, for successful antifolate chemotherapy to be developed against Leishmania, it must target both enzyme activities. Leishmania cells overexpressing PTR1 tagged at the N-terminal with green fluorescent protein were established to screen for proprietary dihydropyrimidone (DHPM) derivatives of DHFR specificity synthesised in our laboratory. A cell-permeable molecule with impressive antileishmanial in vitro and in vivo oral activity was identified. Structure activity relationship based on homology model drawn on our recombinant enzyme established the highly selective inhibition of the enzyme by this analogue. It was seen that the leishmanicidal effect of this analogue is triggered by programmed cell death mediated by the loss of plasma membrane integrity as detected by binding of annexin V and propidium iodide (PI), loss of mitochondrial membrane potential culminating in cell cycle arrest at the sub-G0/G1 phase and oligonucleosomal DNA fragmentation. Hence, this DHPM analogue [(4-fluoro-phenyl)-6-methyl-2-thioxo-1, 2, 3, 4-tetrahydropyrimidine-5-carboxylic acid ethyl ester] is a potent antileishmanial agent that merits further pharmacological investigation.
PMCID: PMC2745541  PMID: 19621245
15.  Folate metabolic pathways in Leishmania 
Essays in Biochemistry  2011;51:63-80.
Trypanosomatid parasitic protozoans of the genus Leishmania are autotrophic for both folate and unconjugated pteridines. Leishmania salvage these metabolites from their mammalian hosts and insect vectors through multiple transporters. Within the parasite, folates are reduced by a bifunctional DHFR (dihydrofolate reductase)-TS (thymidylate synthase) and by a novel PTR1 (pteridine reductase 1), which reduces both folates and unconjugated pteridines. PTR1 can act as a metabolic bypass of DHFR inhibition, reducing the effectiveness of existing antifolate drugs. Leishmania possess a reduced set of folate-dependent metabolic reactions and can salvage many of the key products of folate metabolism from their hosts. For example, they lack purine synthesis, which normally requires 10-formyltetrahydrofolate, and instead rely on a network of purine salvage enzymes. Leishmania elaborate at least three pathways for the synthesis of the key metabolite 5,10-methylene-tetrahydrofolate, required for the synthesis of thymidylate, and for 10-formyltetrahydrofolate, whose presumptive function is for methionyl-tRNAMet formylation required for mitochondrial protein synthesis. Genetic studies have shown that the synthesis of methionine using 5-methyltetrahydrofolate is dispensable, as is the activity of the glycine cleavage complex, probably due to redundancy with serine hydroxymethyltransferase. Although not always essential, the loss of several folate metabolic enzymes results in attenuation or loss of virulence in animal models, and a null DHFR-TS mutant has been used to induce protective immunity. The folate metabolic pathway provides numerous opportunities for targeted chemotherapy, with strong potential for ‘repurposing’ of compounds developed originally for treatment of human cancers or other infectious agents.
PMCID: PMC3278214  PMID: 22023442
16.  PTR1-dependent synthesis of tetrahydrobiopterin contributes to oxidant susceptibility in the trypanosomatid protozoan parasite Leishmania major 
Current genetics  2009;55(3):287-299.
Leishmania must survive oxidative stress, but lack many classical antioxidant enzymes and rely heavily on trypanothione-dependent pathways. We used forward genetic screens to recover loci mediating oxidant resistance via overexpression in Leishmania major, which identified pteridine reductase 1 (PTR1). Comparisons of isogenic lines showed ptr1- null mutants were 18-fold more sensitive to H2O2 than PTR1-overproducing lines, and significant 3-5 fold differences were seen with a broad panel of oxidant-inducing agents. The toxicities of simple nitric oxide generators and other drug classes (except antifolates) were unaffected by PTR1 levels. H2O2 susceptibility could be modulated by exogenous biopterin but not folate, in a PTR1-but not dihydrofolate reductase-dependent manner, implicating H4B metabolism specifically. Neither H2O2 consumption, nor the level of intracellular oxidative stress, was affected by PTR1 levels. Coupled with the fact that reduced pteridines are at least 100-fold less abundant than cellular thiols), these data argue strongly that reduced pteridines act through a mechanism other than scavenging. The ability of unconjugated pteridines to counter oxidative stress has implications to infectivity and response to chemotherapy. Since the intracellular pteridine levels of Leishmania can be readily manipulated, these organisms offer a powerful setting for the dissection of pteridine-dependent oxidant susceptibility in higher eukaryotes.
PMCID: PMC2759280  PMID: 19396443
17.  Crystal structure of a Type II dihydrofolate reductase catalytic ternary complex 
Biochemistry  2007;46(51):14878-14888.
Type II dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR) is a plasmid-encoded enzyme that confers resistance to bacterial DHFR-targeted antifolate drugs. It forms a symmetric homotetramer with a central pore which functions as the active site. Its unusual structure, which results in a promiscuous binding surface that accommodates either the Dihydrofolate (DHF) substrate or the NADPH cofactor, has constituted a significant limitation to efforts to understand its substrate specificity and reaction mechanism. We describe here the first structure of a ternary R67 DHFR•DHF•NADP+ catalytic complex, resolved to1.26 Å. This structure provides the first clear picture of how this enzyme, which lacks the active site carboxyl residue that is ubiquitous in Type I DHFRs, is able to function. In the catalytic complex, the polar backbone atoms of two symmetry-related I68 residues provide recognition motifs that interact with the carboxamide on the nicotinamide ring, and the N3-O4 amide function on the pteridine. This set of interactions orients the aromatic rings of substrate and cofactor in a relative endo geometry in which the reactive centers are held in close proximity. Additionally, a central, hydrogen-bonded network consisting of two pairs of Y69-Q67-Q67′-Y69′ residues provides an unusually tight interface, which appears to serve as a “molecular clamp” holding the substrates in place in an orientation conducive to hydride transfer. In addition to providing the first clear insight regarding how this extremely unusual enzyme is able to function, the structure of the ternary complex provides general insights into how a mutationally-challenged enzyme, i.e., an enzyme whose evolution is restricted to four-residues-at-a-time active site mutations, overcomes this fundamental limitation.
PMCID: PMC3743094  PMID: 18052202
R67 DHFR; Dihydrofolate Reductase; X-ray crystallography; ternary complex; Type II DHFR
18.  In Silico Screening, Structure-Activity Relationship, and Biologic Evaluation of Selective Pteridine Reductase Inhibitors Targeting Visceral Leishmaniasis▿ †  
In this study we utilized the concept of rational drug design to identify novel compounds with optimal selectivity, efficacy and safety, which would bind to the target enzyme pteridine reductase 1 (PTR1) in Leishmania parasites. Twelve compounds afforded from Baylis-Hillman chemistry were docked by using the QUANTUM program into the active site of Leishmania donovani PTR1 homology model. The biological activity for these compounds was estimated in green fluorescent protein-transfected L. donovani promastigotes, and the most potential analogue was further investigated in intracellular amastigotes. Structure-activity relationship based on homology model drawn on our recombinant enzyme was substantiated by recombinant enzyme inhibition assay and growth of the cell culture. Flow cytometry results indicated that 7-(4-chlorobenzyl)-3-methyl-4-(4-trifluoromethyl-phenyl)-3,4,6,7,8,9-hexahydro-pyrimido[1,2-a]pyrimidin-2-one (compound 7) was 10 times more active on L. donovani amastigotes (50% inhibitory concentration [IC50] = 3 μM) than on promastigotes (IC50 = 29 μM). Compound 7 exhibited a Ki value of 0.72 μM in a recombinant enzyme inhibition assay. We discovered that novel pyrimido[1,2-a]pyrimidin-2-one systems generated from the allyl amines afforded from the Baylis-Hillman acetates could have potential as a valuable pharmacological tool against the neglected disease visceral leishmaniasis.
PMCID: PMC3028761  PMID: 21115787
19.  Novel Naphthalene-Based Inhibitors of Trypanosoma brucei RNA Editing Ligase 1 
Neglected tropical diseases, including diseases caused by trypanosomatid parasites such as Trypanosoma brucei, cost tens of millions of disability-adjusted life-years annually. As the current treatments for African trypanosomiasis and other similar infections are limited, new therapeutics are urgently needed. RNA Editing Ligase 1 (REL1), a protein unique to trypanosomes and other kinetoplastids, was identified recently as a potential drug target.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Motivated by the urgent need for novel trypanocidal therapeutics, we use an ensemble-based virtual-screening approach to discover new naphthalene-based TbREL1 inhibitors. The predicted binding modes of the active compounds are evaluated within the context of the flexible receptor model and combined with computational fragment mapping to determine the most likely binding mechanisms. Ultimately, four new low-micromolar inhibitors are presented. Three of the four compounds may bind to a newly revealed cleft that represents a putative druggable site not evident in any crystal structure.
Pending additional optimization, the compounds presented here may serve as precursors for future novel therapies useful in the fight against several trypanosomatid pathogens, including human African trypanosomiasis, a devastating disease that afflicts the vulnerable patient populations of sub-Saharan Africa.
Author Summary
African sleeping sickness is a devastating disease that plagues sub-Saharan Africa. Neglected tropical diseases like African sleeping sickness cause significant death and suffering in the world's poorest countries. Current treatments for African sleeping sickness either have high costs, terrible side effects, or limited effectiveness. Consequently, new medicines are urgently needed. RNA editing ligase 1 is an important protein critical for the survival of Trypanosoma brucei, the unicellular parasite that causes African sleeping sickness. In this paper, we describe our recent efforts to use advanced computer techniques to identify chemicals predicted to prevent RNA editing ligase 1 from functioning properly. We subsequently tested our predicted chemicals and confirmed that a number of them inhibited the protein's function. Additionally, one of the chemicals was effective at stopping the growth of the parasite in culture. Although substantial work remains to be done in order to optimize these chemicals so they are effective and safe to use in human patients, the identification of these parasite-killing compounds is nevertheless a valuable step towards finding a better cure for this devastating disease.
PMCID: PMC2927429  PMID: 20808768
20.  N-glycosylation and dimerization regulate the PtrMAN6 enzyme activity that may modulate generation of oligosaccharide signals 
Plant Signaling & Behavior  2013;8(11):e26956.
PtrMAN6 is a plant mannan endo-hydrolase involved in modulating cell expansion and cell wall thickening in Populus developing xylem. N-glycosylation and dimerization affect the PtrMAN6 enzymatic activity, which is crucial for production of the endogenous galactoglucomannan oligosaccharide signal molecule in plants. There are 5 potential N-glycosylation sites and 6 cysteines in PtrMAN6 sequence. Each of the N-glycosylation or cysteine sites was site-direct mutagenized individually as well as in combination to analyze their effects on the PtrMAN6 N-glycosylation or dimerization status and the enzyme activity. Our results demonstrated that all 5 potential N-glycosylation sites are involved in the N-glycosylation, which is essential for PtrMAN6 enzyme activity. Meanwhile, we found only 3 carboxyl-terminal cysteines are involved in formation of disulfide-linked dimer to regulate PtrMAN6 activity. The 3 carboxyl-terminal cysteines were conserved in the wall-bounded mannan endo-hydrolases, and this structure may play a role in regulating the PtrMAN6 activity through interaction with redox signals such as reactive oxygen species (ROS) and hydrogen sulfide (H2S) for GGMOs signal generation.
PMCID: PMC4091382  PMID: 24184917
PtrMAN6; N-glycosylation; Dimerization; GGMOs; Redox
21.  Gene Regulation of Pteridine Reductase 1 in Leishmania Promastigotes and Amastigotes Using a Full-Length Antisense Construct 
Iranian Journal of Parasitology  2013;8(2):190-196.
Pteridine metabolic pathway is unusual features of Leishmania, which is necessary for the growth of parasite. Leishmania has evolved a complex and versatile pteridine salvage network which has the ability of scavenging a wide area of the conjugated and unconjugated pteridines especially folate and biopterin. In this study, we focus on the inhibition of ptr1 gene expression.
L. major ptr1 gene was cloned into pcDNA3 and digested using KpnI and BamHI. The gene was subcloned so that antisense will transcribe and called pcDNA-rPTR. Leishmania major was cultured and late logarithmic-phase promastigotes were harvested. The promastigotes were divided into two groups. One group was transfected with 50 µg of pcDNA-rPTR, whereas the other group was transfected with pcDNA3. Transfected cells were cultured and plated onto semi-solid media. Mouse pritonean macrophages were transfected using pcDNA-rPTR–tansfected promastigotes. Western blotting was performed on mouse transfected pritonean macrophages and extracts from transfected promastigotes of L. major using a L. major ptr1 antibody raised in rabbits.
The PTR1 protein was not expressed in pcDNA-rPTR– tansfected promastigotes and mouse macrophage transfected with pcDNA-rPTR– tansfected promastigotes.
This approach might be used to study the pteridine salvage pathway in Leishmania or to assess the possibility of using gene expression inhibition in the treatment of leishmaniasis.
PMCID: PMC3724142  PMID: 23914230
Pteridine reductase 1; Antisense; Leishmania; Gene regulation; Inhibition
22.  Molecular Characterization of Three Small Isometric-Headed Bacteriophages Which Vary in Their Sensitivity to the Lactococcal Phage Resistance Plasmid pTR2030 † 
Lactococcus lactis LMA12-4 is a pTR2030 transconjugant that has been used as an industrial starter culture because of its resistance to phages predominant in cheese plants. Plasmid pTR2030 interferes with susceptible phages in this host strain via two mechanisms, restriction and modification (R/M) and abortive infection (Hsp). After prolonged use of LMA12-4 transconjugants in the industry, two different bacteriophages, designated nck202.φ48 (φ48) and nck202.φ50 (φ50), were isolated which could produce plaques on LMA12-4 containing pTR2030. In this study, these two phages were characterized and compared with a third phage, nck202.φ31 (φ31), which is susceptible to both the R/M and Hsp activities encoded by pTR2030. Phage φ48 was not susceptible to inhibition by Hsp, whereas φ50 was unaffected by either the R/M or Hsp mechanisms. All three were small isometric-headed phages, but small differences were noted between the phages in the structural details of the tail base plate, susceptibility to chloroform treatment, and requirements for calcium infectivity. The phage genomes were all between 29.9 and 31.9 kb in length. Phages φ31 and φ48 harbored cohesive ends, whereas the phage φ50 genome was circularly permuted, terminally redundant, and carried a putative packaging initiation site. DNA-DNA hybridization experiments conducted between the phages revealed a common region in φ48 and φ50 that may correlate with the resistance of the two phages to the Hsp-abortive infection induced by pTR2030. Phage φ50 also harbored DNA sequences that shared homology to pTR2030 in the region where R/M activities have been localized on the plasmid. Molecular characterization of the three phages localized regions within the genomes of the pTR2030-resistant phages that may be responsible for circumventing plasmid-encoded Hsp and R/M defense mechanisms in lactococci.
PMCID: PMC182953  PMID: 16348479
23.  Crystal Structures of TbCatB and Rhodesain, Potential Chemotherapeutic Targets and Major Cysteine Proteases of Trypanosoma brucei 
Trypanosoma brucei is the etiological agent of Human African Trypanosomiasis, an endemic parasitic disease of sub-Saharan Africa. TbCatB and rhodesain are the sole Clan CA papain-like cysteine proteases produced by the parasite during infection of the mammalian host and are implicated in the progression of disease. Of considerable interest is the exploration of these two enzymes as targets for cysteine protease inhibitors that are effective against T. brucei.
Methods and Findings
We have determined, by X-ray crystallography, the first reported structure of TbCatB in complex with the cathepsin B selective inhibitor CA074. In addition we report the structure of rhodesain in complex with the vinyl-sulfone K11002.
The mature domain of our TbCat•CA074 structure contains unique features for a cathepsin B-like enzyme including an elongated N-terminus extending 16 residues past the predicted maturation cleavage site. N-terminal Edman sequencing reveals an even longer extension than is observed amongst the ordered portions of the crystal structure. The TbCat•CA074 structure confirms that the occluding loop, which is an essential part of the substrate-binding site, creates a larger prime side pocket in the active site cleft than is found in mammalian cathepsin B-small molecule structures. Our data further highlight enhanced flexibility in the occluding loop main chain and structural deviations from mammalian cathepsin B enzymes that may affect activity and inhibitor design. Comparisons with the rhodesain•K11002 structure highlight key differences that may impact the design of cysteine protease inhibitors as anti-trypanosomal drugs.
Author Summary
Proteases are ubiquitous in all forms of life and catalyze the enzymatic degradation of proteins. These enzymes regulate and coordinate a vast number of cellular processes and are therefore essential to many organisms. While serine proteases dominate in mammals, parasitic organisms commonly rely on cysteine proteases of the Clan CA family throughout their lifecycle. Clan CA cysteine proteases are therefore regarded as promising targets for the selective design of drugs to treat parasitic diseases, such as Human African Trypanosomiasis caused by Trypanosoma brucei. The genomes of kinetoplastids such as Trypanosoma spp. and Leishmania spp. encode two Clan CA C1 family cysteine proteases and in T. brucei these are represented by rhodesain and TbCatB. We have determined three-dimensional structures of these two enzymes as part of our ongoing efforts to synthesize more effective anti-trypanosomal drugs.
PMCID: PMC2882330  PMID: 20544024
24.  Binding and Nuclear Relocalization of Protein Kinase R by Human Cytomegalovirus TRS1▿  
Journal of Virology  2006;80(23):11817-11826.
The human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) TRS1 and IRS1 genes block the phosphorylation of the alpha subunit of eukaryotic initiation factor 2 (eIF2α) and the consequent shutoff of cellular protein synthesis that occur during infection with vaccinia virus (VV) deleted of the double-stranded RNA binding protein gene E3L (VVΔE3L). To further define the underlying mechanism, we first evaluated the effect of pTRS1 on protein kinase R (PKR), the double-stranded RNA (dsRNA)-dependent eIF2α kinase. Immunoblot analyses revealed that pTRS1 expression in the context of a VVΔE3L recombinant decreased levels of PKR in the cytoplasm and increased its levels in the nucleus of infected cells, an effect not seen with wild-type VV or a VVΔE3L recombinant virus expressing E3L. This effect of pTRS1 was confirmed by visualizing the nuclear relocalization of PKR-EGFP expressed by transient transfection. PKR present in both the nuclear and cytoplasmic fractions was nonphosphorylated, indicating that it was unactivated when TRS1 was present. PKR also accumulated in the nucleus during HCMV infection as determined by indirect immunofluorescence and immunoblot analysis. Binding assays revealed that pTRS1 interacted with PKR in mammalian cells and in vitro. This interaction required the same carboxy-terminal region of pTRS1 that is necessary to rescue VVΔE3L replication in HeLa cells. The carboxy terminus of pIRS1 was also required for rescue of VVΔE3L and for mediating an interaction of pIRS1 with PKR. These results suggest that these HCMV genes directly interact with PKR and inhibit its activation by sequestering it in the nucleus, away from both its activator, cytoplasmic dsRNA, and its substrate, eIF2α.
PMCID: PMC1642616  PMID: 16987971
25.  Molecular cloning and characterization of PtrLAR3, a gene encoding leucoanthocyanidin reductase from Populus trichocarpa, and its constitutive expression enhances fungal resistance in transgenic plants 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2012;63(7):2513-2524.
The flavonoid-derived proanthocyanidins (PAs) are one class of the major defence phenolics in poplar leaves. Transcriptional activation of PA biosynthetic genes, resulting in PA accumulation in leaves, was detected following infection by the fungal Marssonina brunnea f.sp. multigermtubi using digital gene expression analysis. In order to study PA biosynthesis and its induction by fungi, a putative leucoanthocyanidin reductase gene, PtrLAR3, was isolated from Populus trichocarpa. Sequence comparison of PtrLAR3 with other known leucoanthocyanidin reductase proteins revealed high amino acid sequence similarity. Semi-quantitative reverse-transcription (RT) PCR and quantitative real-time PCR analysis demonstrated that PtrLAR3 was expressed in various tissues and the highest level of expression was observed in roots. Overexpression of PtrLAR3 in Chinese white poplar (Populus tomentosa Carr.) led to a significant plant-wide increase in PA levels. In vitro assays showed that crude leaf extracts from 35S:PtrLAR3 transformants were able to inhibit significantly the hyphal growth of M. brunnea f.sp. multigermtubi compared to the extracts from control plants. The transgenic 35S:PtrLAR3 poplar plants displayed a significant (P < 0.05) reduction in their disease symptoms compared with the control. RT-PCR analysis showed that PtrLAR3 expression was up-regulated in all transformants. These results suggested that constitutive expression of endogenous PtrLAR3 could be exploited to improve resistance to fungal pathogens in poplar.
PMCID: PMC3346219  PMID: 22268151
Marssonina brunnea; poplar; proanthocyanidin biosynthesis; PtrLAR3

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