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1.  Identification of Semicarbazones, Thiosemicarbazones and Triazine Nitriles as Inhibitors of Leishmania mexicana Cysteine Protease CPB 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e77460.
Cysteine proteases of the papain superfamily are present in nearly all eukaryotes. They play pivotal roles in the biology of parasites and inhibition of cysteine proteases is emerging as an important strategy to combat parasitic diseases such as sleeping sickness, Chagas’ disease and leishmaniasis. Homology modeling of the mature Leishmania mexicana cysteine protease CPB2.8 suggested that it differs significantly from bovine cathepsin B and thus could be a good drug target. High throughput screening of a compound library against this enzyme and bovine cathepsin B in a counter assay identified four novel inhibitors, containing the warhead-types semicarbazone, thiosemicarbazone and triazine nitrile, that can be used as leads for antiparasite drug design. Covalent docking experiments confirmed the SARs of these lead compounds in an effort to understand the structural elements required for specific inhibition of CPB2.8. This study has provided starting points for the design of selective and highly potent inhibitors of L. mexicana cysteine protease CPB that may also have useful efficacy against other important cysteine proteases.
PMCID: PMC3797739  PMID: 24146999
2.  Schistosomiasis Mansoni: Novel Chemotherapy Using a Cysteine Protease Inhibitor 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(1):e14.
Schistosomiasis is a chronic, debilitating parasitic disease infecting more than 200 million people and is second only to malaria in terms of public health importance. Due to the lack of a vaccine, patient therapy is heavily reliant on chemotherapy with praziquantel as the World Health Organization–recommended drug, but concerns over drug resistance encourage the search for new drug leads.
Methods and Findings
The efficacy of the vinyl sulfone cysteine protease inhibitor K11777 was tested in the murine model of schistosomiasis mansoni. Disease parameters measured were worm and egg burdens, and organ pathology including hepato- and splenomegaly, presence of parasite egg–induced granulomas in the liver, and levels of circulating alanine aminotransferase activity as a marker of hepatocellular function. K11777 (25 mg/kg twice daily [BID]), administered intraperitoneally at the time of parasite migration through the skin and lungs (days 1–14 postinfection [p.i.]), resulted in parasitologic cure (elimination of parasite eggs) in five of seven cases and a resolution of other disease parameters. K11777 (50 mg/kg BID), administered at the commencement of egg-laying by mature parasites (days 30–37 p.i.), reduced worm and egg burdens, and ameliorated organ pathology. Using protease class-specific substrates and active-site labeling, one molecular target of K11777 was identified as the gut-associated cathepsin B1 cysteine protease, although other cysteine protease targets are not excluded. In rodents, dogs, and primates, K11777 is nonmutagenic with satisfactory safety and pharmacokinetic profiles.
The significant reduction in parasite burden and pathology by this vinyl sulfone cysteine protease inhibitor validates schistosome cysteine proteases as drug targets and offers the potential of a new direction for chemotherapy of human schistosomiasis.
A significant reduction in parasite burden and pathology by a vinyl sulfone cysteine protease inhibitor suggests a new direction for chemotherapy of human schistosomiasis.
Editors' Summary
Schistosomiasis, a disease caused by a type of parasitic flatworm that lives in the blood, infects around 200 million people worldwide. The disease is a serious problem in sub-Saharan Africa, South America, China, and southeast Asia. Although this disease can kill, it is better known as a lifelong chronic infection with debilitating symptoms mainly due to an immune reaction raised against parasite eggs trapped in the liver, spleen, and gut. The worm's life cycle is complicated and involves a free-swimming form that emerges from certain types of snails that live in lakes and ponds. This can penetrate the skin of people in contact with the water. After a period spent in the skin and around the lungs, the parasites move to veins around the gut, and develop into adult worms that mate and lay eggs. These eggs eventually return to the water through the person's feces or urine. A particular group of proteins called cysteine proteases are thought to be very important in the biology of these worms, especially in their function as digestive enzymes in the parasite's gut. These proteases could represent an exciting opportunity for development of new drugs to treat schistosomiasis. The researchers are looking at whether it is possible to block the activity of cysteine proteases and, as a result, kill the worms or prevent them from developing and thriving.
Why Was This Study Done?
At the moment there is only one drug, praziquantel, in common use for treatment of schistosomiasis; it is cheap and effective. However many organizations are worried about relying on a single drug to treat a serious disease which affects so many people worldwide. The research group here has been looking at molecules that block cysteine protease activity, to see if any of these could be good drug candidates for schistosomiasis. One molecule they have been looking at goes by the name of K11777, which is under evaluation as a drug candidate for another parasitic infection (Chagas' disease). Here, the researchers wanted to find out whether K11777 had any activity against schistosome worms.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In this study, the researchers deliberately infected laboratory mice with the schistosome parasite. These mice were then either injected with K11777 solution twice daily, or with equivalent volumes of water as a comparison. The researchers examined the effects of injecting K11777 either “early” in infection (using a 14 day course, starting 1 day after infection with the parasite) or “late” in the worms' development (using an 8 day treatment course starting 30 days after infection). The outcomes used as measures of success of treatment with K11777 included the number of worms recovered from mice after euthanasia, the number of worm eggs counted in the liver; the extent of the damage to the liver; and finally, the researchers also looked at activity levels of cysteine proteases in the worms themselves, in particular, those proteases associated with the parasite gut.
The results of the early-treatment experiment showed a substantial decrease in worm numbers and egg production. In five of the seven mice treated, eggs were eliminated entirely. Also, there was little measurable liver damage. For the late-treatment experiment, decreased burdens of worms and eggs in the livers of K11777 treated mice were also found, and there was less damage to the livers. Those worms surviving treatment and removed from mice also had much less activity of gut cysteine proteases suggesting that K11777 exerts its effects by targeting worm cysteine proteases.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These experiments show that K11777 is a potent antischistosomal agent in mice. It might therefore be a good ‘candidate' molecule for developing future treatments for human schistosomiasis. However, before that stage can be reached, it would be important to carry out clinical trials to test whether K11777 is both safe and effective in schistosomiasis patients. Full details as to which worm cysteine protease(s) is the critical target of K11777 would also need to be worked out, and more information would be needed as to whether the dosing plan used in this study (twice-daily injections for a week to 14 days) can be decreased.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
World Health Organization pages about schistosomiasis including links to details on further research into the disease
Information from the US Centers for Disease Control for patients and health professionals about schistosomiasis
Wikipedia pages on schistosomiasis (Wikipedia is an internet encyclopedia anyone can edit)
PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases is a new journal from the Public Library of Science that is devoted to publishing research on the world's most neglected tropical diseases, including schistosomiasis
PMCID: PMC1764436  PMID: 17214506
3.  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
4.  Heparin Modulates the Endopeptidase Activity of Leishmania mexicana Cysteine Protease Cathepsin L-Like rCPB2.8 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e80153.
Cysteine protease B is considered crucial for the survival and infectivity of the Leishmania in its human host. Several microorganism pathogens bind to the heparin-like glycosaminoglycans chains of proteoglycans at host-cell surface to promote their attachment and internalization. Here, we have investigated the influence of heparin upon Leishmania mexicana cysteine protease rCPB2.8 activity.
Methodology/Principal Findings
The data analysis revealed that the presence of heparin affects all steps of the enzyme reaction: (i) it decreases 3.5-fold the k1 and 4.0-fold the k−1, (ii) it affects the acyl-enzyme accumulation with pronounced decrease in k2 (2.7-fold), and also decrease in k3 (3.5-fold). The large values of ΔG  =  12 kJ/mol for the association and dissociation steps indicate substantial structural strains linked to the formation/dissociation of the ES complex in the presence of heparin, which underscore a conformational change that prevents the diffusion of substrate in the rCPB2.8 active site. Binding to heparin also significantly decreases the α-helix content of the rCPB2.8 and perturbs the intrinsic fluorescence emission of the enzyme. The data strongly suggest that heparin is altering the ionization of catalytic (Cys25)-S−/(His163)-Im+ H ion pair of the rCPB2.8. Moreover, the interaction of heparin with the N-terminal pro-region of rCPB2.8 significantly decreased its inhibitory activity against the mature enzyme.
Taken together, depending on their concentration, heparin-like glycosaminoglycans can either stimulate or antagonize the activity of cysteine protease B enzymes during parasite infection, suggesting that this glycoconjugate can anchor parasite cysteine protease at host cell surface.
PMCID: PMC3836952  PMID: 24278253
5.  Combining Cationic Liposomal Delivery with MPL-TDM for Cysteine Protease Cocktail Vaccination against Leishmania donovani : Evidence for Antigen Synergy and Protection 
With the paucity of new drugs and HIV co-infection, vaccination remains an unmet research priority to combat visceral leishmaniasis (VL) requiring strong cellular immunity. Protein vaccination often suffers from low immunogenicity and poor generation of memory T cells for long-lasting protection. Cysteine proteases (CPs) are immunogenic proteins and key mediators of cellular functions in Leishmania. Here, we evaluated the vaccine efficacies of CPs against VL, using cationic liposomes with Toll like receptor agonists for stimulating host immunity against L. donovani in a hamster model.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Recombinant CPs type I (cpb), II (cpa) and III (cpc) of L. donovani were tested singly and in combination as a triple antigen cocktail for antileishmanial vaccination in hamsters. We found the antigens to be highly immunoreactive and persistent anti-CPA, anti-CPB and anti-CPC antibodies were detected in VL patients even after cure. The liposome-entrapped CPs with monophosphoryl lipid A-Trehalose dicorynomycolate (MPL-TDM) induced significantly high nitric oxide (up to 4 fold higher than controls) mediated antileishmanial activity in vitro, and resulted in strong in vivo protection. Among the three CPs, CPC emerged as the most potent vaccine candidate in combating the disease. Interestingly, a synergistic increase in protection was observed with liposomal CPA, CPB and CPC antigenic cocktail which reduced the organ parasite burden by 1013–1016 folds, and increased the disease-free survival of >80% animals at least up to 6 months post infection. Robust secretion of IFN-γ and IL-12, along with concomitant downregulation of Th2 cytokines, was observed in cocktail vaccinates, even after 3 months post infection.
The present study is the first report of a comparative efficacy of leishmanial CPs and their cocktail using liposomal formulation with MPL-TDM against L. donovani. The level of protection attained has not been reported for any other subcutaneous single or polyprotein vaccination against VL.
Author Summary
Conventional chemotherapy of visceral leishmaniasis (VL) typically relies on pentavalent antimonials that suffer from extensive drug resistance in India. Development of preventive vaccination is undoubtedly a better alternative to completely eradicate the disease. With this in mind, we chose to target parasite cysteine proteases (CPs), with immense biological importance, as potential vaccine candidates against Leishmania donovani. Here, we describe the superior efficacy of an antigenic cocktail of type I, II and III CPs entrapped in cationic liposomes with Toll like receptor (TLR) agonists: monophosphoryl lipid A- Trehalose dicorynomycolate (MPL-TDM), against L. donovani in a hamster model. The three CPs acted synergistically in the cocktail to induce almost complete protection against Leishmania. The protection is chiefly mediated through upregulation of protective cytokines like interferon-gamma (IFN-γ), interleukin-12 (IL-12), IL-2, and tumour necrosis factor (TNF-α), with concomitant down-regulation of disease promoting cytokines, like transforming growth factor–beta (TGF-β), IL-10 and IL-4. The antigens were also compared singly for their protective potential. Interestingly, type III (CPC) CP emerged as the most potent antigenic component of the cocktail inducing better protection than type I and II. Hence, the cysteine proteases of Leishmania form an attractive group of vaccine candidates for future studies in human VL.
PMCID: PMC4140747  PMID: 25144181
6.  Expression of Multiple CPB Genes Encoding Cysteine Proteases Is Required for Leishmania mexicana Virulence In Vivo  
Infection and Immunity  2003;71(6):3190-3195.
Leishmania mexicana mutants deficient in the multicopy CPB gene array have reduced virulence, demonstrated by poor lesion growth in BALB/c mice and induction of a protective Th1 response. Reinsertion of the amastigote-specific CPB2.8 or metacyclic stage-specific CPB2 gene into a CPB-deficient mutant L. mexicana failed to restore either a Th2 response or sustained virulence. However, reexpression of multiple CPB genes from a cosmid significantly restored virulence. This was characterized by increased lesion and parasite growth and the acquisition of a Th2 response, as determined by measuring interleukin-4 production and immunoglobulin G1 (IgG1) and IgE levels. These studies confirm that L. mexicana cysteine proteases are important virulence factors and provide an explanation for the presence in L. mexicana of a multicopy tandem array of CPB genes.
PMCID: PMC155739  PMID: 12761098
7.  Identification of a New Class of Nonpeptidic Inhibitors of Cruzain 
Cruzain is the major cysteine protease of T. cruzi, which is the causative agent of Chagas’ disease and is a promising target for the development of new chemotherapy. With the goal of developing potent nonpeptidic inhibitors of cruzain, the Substrate Activity Screening (SAS) method was used to screen a library of protease substrates initially designed to target the homologous human protease cathepsin S. Structure-based design was next used to further improve substrate cleavage efficiency by introducing additional binding interactions in the S3 pocket of cruzain. The optimized substrates were then converted to inhibitors by the introduction of cysteine protease mechanism-based pharmacophores. Inhibitor 38 was determined to be reversible even though it incorporated the vinyl sulfone pharmacophore that is well documented to give irreversible cruzain inhibition for peptidic inhibitors. The previously unexplored β-chloro vinyl sulfone pharmacophore provided mechanistic insight that led to the development of potent irreversible acyl- and aryl-oxymethyl ketone cruzain inhibitors. For these inhibitors, potency did not solely depend on leaving group pKa, with 2,3,5,6-tetrafluorophenoxymethyl ketone 54 identified as one of the most potent inhibitors with a second order inactivation constant of 147,000 s−1M−1. This inhibitor completely eradicated the T. cruzi parasite from mammalian cell cultures and consequently has the potential to lead to new chemotherapeutics for Chagas’ disease.
PMCID: PMC2765048  PMID: 18435536
Cruzain; aryloxymethyl ketone; Chagas’ disease; protease inhibitor
8.  Binding and Inactivation Mechanism of a Humanized Fatty Acid Amide Hydrolase by α-Ketoheterocycle Inhibitors Revealed from Co-Crystal Structures 
Journal of the American Chemical Society  2009;131(30):10497-10506.
The co-crystal X-ray structures of two isomeric α-ketooxazole inhibitors (1 (OL-135) and 2) bound to fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), a key enzymatic regulator of endocannabinoid signaling, are disclosed. The active site catalytic Ser241 is covalently bound to the inhibitors’ electrophilic carbonyl groups, providing the first structures of FAAH bound to an inhibitor as a deprotonated hemiketal mimicking the enzymatic tetrahedral intermediate. The work also offers a detailed view of the oxyanion hole and an exceptional “in-action” depiction of the unusual Ser-Ser-Lys catalytic triad. These structures capture the first picture of inhibitors that span the active site into the cytosolic port providing new insights that help to explain FAAH’s interaction with substrate leaving groups and their role in modulating inhibitor potency and selectivity. The role for the activating central heterocycle is clearly defined and distinguished from that observed in prior applications with serine proteases, reconciling the large electronic effect of attached substituents found unique to this class of inhibitors with FAAH. Additional striking active site flexibility is seen upon binding of the inhibitors, providing insights into the existence of a now well-defined membrane access channel with the disappearance of a spatially independent acyl chain-binding pocket. Finally, comparison of the structures of OL-135 (1) and its isomer 2 indicates that they bind identically to FAAH, albeit with reversed orientations of the central activating heterocycle, revealing that the terminal 2-pyridyl substituent and the acyl chain phenyl group provide key anchoring interactions and confirming the distinguishing role of the activating oxazole.
PMCID: PMC2739126  PMID: 19722626
9.  Potent and Selective α-Ketoheterocycle-Based Inhibitors of the Anandamide and Oleamide Catabolizing Enzyme, Fatty Acid Amide Hydrolase 
Journal of medicinal chemistry  2007;50(5):1058-1068.
A study of the structure–activity relationships (SAR) of 2f (OL-135), a potent inhibitor of fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), is detailed targeting the 5-position of the oxazole. Examination of a series of substituted benzene derivatives (12–14) revealed that the optimal position for substitution was the meta-position with selected members approaching or exceeding the potency of 2f. Concurrent with these studies, the effect of substitution on the pyridine ring of 2f was also examined. A series of small, non-aromatic C5-substituents was also explored and revealed that the Ki follows a well-defined correlation with the Hammett σp constant (ρ = 3.01, R2 = 0.91) in which electron-withdrawing substituents enhance potency leading to inhibitors with Ki’s as low as 400 pM (20n). Proteomic-wide screening of the inhibitors revealed that most are exquisitely selective for FAAH over all other mammalian proteases reversing the 100-fold preference of 20a (C5 substituent = H) for the enzyme TGH.
PMCID: PMC2531193  PMID: 17279740
10.  Cure of Hookworm Infection with a Cysteine Protease Inhibitor 
Hookworm disease is a major global health problem and principal among a number of soil-transmitted helminthiases (STHs) for the chronic disability inflicted that impacts both personal and societal productivity. Mass drug administration most often employs single-dose therapy with just two drugs of the same chemical class to which resistance is a growing concern. New chemical entities with the appropriate single-dose efficacy are needed.
Methods and Findings
Using various life-cycle stages of the hookworm Ancylostoma ceylanicum in vitro and a hamster model of infection, we report the potent, dose-dependent cidal activities of the peptidyl cysteine protease inhibitors (CPIs) K11002 (4-mopholino-carbonyl-phenylalanyl-homophenylalanyl- vinyl sulfone phenyl) and K11777 (N-methylpiperazine-phenylalanyl-homophenylalanyl-vinylsulfone phenyl). The latter is in late pre-clinical testing for submission as an Investigational New Drug (IND) with the US Federal Drug Administration as an anti-chagasic. In vitro, K11002 killed hookworm eggs but was without activity against first-stage larvae. The reverse was true for K11777 with a larvicidal potency equal to that of the current anti-hookworm drug, albendazole (ABZ). Both CPIs produced morbidity in ex vivo adult hookworms with the activity of K11777 again being at least the equivalent of ABZ. Combinations of either CPI with ABZ enhanced morbidity compared to single compounds. Strikingly, oral treatment of infected hamsters with 100 mg/kg K11777 b.i.d. (i.e., a total daily dose of 200 mg/kg) for one day cured infection: a single 100 mg/kg treatment removed >90% of worms. Treatment also reversed the otherwise fatal decrease in blood hemoglobin levels and body weights of hosts. Consistent with its mechanism of action, K11777 decreased by >95% the resident CP activity in parasites harvested from hamsters 8 h post-treatment with a single 100 mg/kg oral dose.
A new, oral single-dose anthelmintic that is active in an animal model of hookworm infection and that possesses a distinct mechanism of action from current anthelmintics is discovered. The data highlight both the possibility of repurposing the anti-chagasic K11777 as a treatment for hookworm infection and the opportunity to further develop CPIs as a novel anthelmintic class to target hookworms and, possibly, other helminths.
Author Summary
In spite of the enormous prevalence of hookworm disease, just two drugs, albendazole and mebendazole, are most commonly employed for treatment and control, and both belong to the same benzimidazole chemical class. There exists, therefore, a pressing need to develop new, safe and inexpensive agents for the treatment of human nematode infections of global significance. We report the discovery of the striking efficacy of the cysteine protease inhibitor, K11777, against hookworms both in vitro and in vivo and discuss the development of this class of compounds as novel anthelmintics for the clinical management of hookworm disease. K11777 is chemically distinct from all the current anthelmintics and, therefore, not likely to share resistance characteristics. We describe mechanism of action studies that demonstrate that cysteine protease activity in parasites recovered after in vivo treatment with K11777 is almost completely (>95%) abrogated. Lastly, we report that K11777 provides near cure (>90%) of hookworm infection in a single oral administration (complete cure when given twice in one day). These results suggest that K11777 is on target to meet the current clinical practice and the logistics demanded for mass drug delivery of anthelmintics to humans (i.e., oral, single-dose treatment).
PMCID: PMC3389033  PMID: 22802972
11.  α-Ketoheterocycle-based Inhibitors of Fatty Acid Amide Hydrolase (FAAH) 
ACS chemical neuroscience  2011;3(5):340-348.
A summary of the initial discovery and characterization of the enzyme fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), and the subsequent advancement of an important class of competitive, reversible, potent and selective inhibitors is presented. Initially explored using substrate-inspired inhibitors bearing electrophilic carbonyls, the examination of α-ketoheterocyle-based inhibitors of FAAH with the benefit of a unique activity-based protein-profiling (ABPP)-based proteome-wide selectivity assay, a powerful in vivo biomarker-based in vivo screen, and subsequent retrospective X-ray co-crystal structures with the enzyme, is summarized. These efforts defined the impact of the central activating heterocycle and its key substituents, provided key simplifications in the C2 acyl side chain and clear interpretations for the unique role and subsequent optimization of the central activating heterocycle, and established the basis for the recent further conformational constraints in the C2 acyl side chain, providing potent, long-acting, orally-active FAAH inhibitors.
PMCID: PMC3359644  PMID: 22639704
fatty acid amide hydrolase; FAAH; α-ketoheterocycles; pain; sleep
12.  α-Ketoheterocycle-Based Inhibitors of Fatty Acid Amide Hydrolase (FAAH) 
ACS Chemical Neuroscience  2011;3(5):340-348.
A summary of the initial discovery and characterization of the enzyme fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), and the subsequent advancement of an important class of competitive, reversible, potent, and selective inhibitors is presented. Initially explored using substrate-inspired inhibitors bearing electrophilic carbonyls, the examination of α-ketoheterocyle-based inhibitors of FAAH with the benefit of a unique activity-based protein-profiling (ABPP)-based proteome-wide selectivity assay, a powerful in vivo biomarker-based in vivo screen, and subsequent retrospective X-ray cocrystal structures with the enzyme, is summarized. These efforts defined the impact of the central activating heterocycle and its key substituents, provided key simplifications in the C2 acyl side chain and clear interpretations for the unique role and subsequent optimization of the central activating heterocycle, and established the basis for the recent further conformational constraints in the C2 acyl side chain, providing potent, long-acting, orally active FAAH inhibitors.
PMCID: PMC3359644  PMID: 22639704
Fatty acid amide hydrolase; FAAH; α-ketoheterocycles; pain; sleep
13.  In Vitro and In Vivo Studies of the Trypanocidal Properties of WRR-483 against Trypanosoma cruzi 
Cruzain, the major cysteine protease of Trypanosoma cruzi, is an essential enzyme for the parasite life cycle and has been validated as a viable target to treat Chagas' disease. As a proof-of-concept, K11777, a potent inhibitor of cruzain, was found to effectively eliminate T. cruzi infection and is currently a clinical candidate for treatment of Chagas' disease.
Methodology/Principal Findings
WRR-483, an analog of K11777, was synthesized and evaluated as an inhibitor of cruzain and against T. cruzi proliferation in cell culture. This compound demonstrates good potency against cruzain with sensitivity to pH conditions and high efficacy in the cell culture assay. Furthermore, WRR-483 also eradicates parasite infection in a mouse model of acute Chagas' disease. To determine the atomic-level details of the inhibitor interacting with cruzain, a 1.5 Å crystal structure of the protease in complex with WRR-483 was solved. The structure illustrates that WRR-483 binds covalently to the active site cysteine of the protease in a similar manner as other vinyl sulfone-based inhibitors. Details of the critical interactions within the specificity binding pocket are also reported.
We demonstrate that WRR-483 is an effective cysteine protease inhibitor with trypanocidal activity in cell culture and animal model with comparable efficacy to K11777. Crystallographic evidence confirms that the mode of action is by targeting the active site of cruzain. Taken together, these results suggest that WRR-483 has potential to be developed as a treatment for Chagas' disease.
Author Summary
Current drugs for Chagas' disease, caused by Trypanosoma cruzi infection, are limited in efficacy and are severely toxic. Hence the development of novel chemotherapeutic agents targeting T. cruzi infections is an important undertaking. In recent years, there has been considerable interest in cruzain, the major protease in T. cruzi, as a target to treat Chagas' disease. Herein, we present the synthesis of WRR-483, a small molecule designed as an irreversible cysteine protease inhibitor, and an assessment of its biological activity against cruzain and T. cruzi infection. This compound displays pH-dependent affinity for cruzain and highly effective trypanocidal activity in both cell cuture and a mouse model of acute Chagas' disease. The crystal structure of WRR-483 bound to cruzain elucidates the details of inhibitor binding to the enzyme. Based on these results, this inhibitor is a promising compound for the development of therapeutics for Chagas' disease.
PMCID: PMC2939063  PMID: 20856868
14.  Structure-Activity Relationships for Inhibition of Cysteine Protease Activity and Development of Plasmodium falciparum by Peptidyl Vinyl Sulfones 
The Plasmodium falciparum cysteine proteases falcipain-2 and falcipain-3 appear to be required for hemoglobin hydrolysis by intraerythrocytic malaria parasites. Previous studies showed that peptidyl vinyl sulfone inhibitors of falcipain-2 blocked the development of P. falciparum in culture and exerted antimalarial effects in vivo. We now report the structure-activity relationships for inhibition of falcipain-2, falcipain-3, and parasite development by 39 new vinyl sulfone, vinyl sulfonate ester, and vinyl sulfonamide cysteine protease inhibitors. Levels of inhibition of falcipain-2 and falcipain-3 were generally similar, and many potent compounds were identified. Optimal antimalarial compounds, which inhibited P. falciparum development at low nanomolar concentrations, were phenyl vinyl sulfones, vinyl sulfonate esters, and vinyl sulfonamides with P2 leucine moieties. Our results identify independent structural correlates of falcipain inhibition and antiparasitic activity and suggest that peptidyl vinyl sulfones have promise as antimalarial agents.
PMCID: PMC149004  PMID: 12499184
15.  Overview of the organization of protease genes in the genome of Leishmania spp 
Parasites & Vectors  2014;7(1):387.
The genus Leishmania includes protozoan parasites that are able to infect an array of phlebotomine and vertebrate species. Proteases are related to the capacity of these parasites to infect and survive in their hosts and are therefore classified as virulence factors.
By analyzing protease genes annotated in the genomes of four Leishmania spp [Leishmania (Leishmania) infantum, L. (L.) major, L. (L.) mexicana and L. (Viannia) braziliensis], these genes were found on every chromosome of these protozoa. Four protease classes were studied: metallo-, serine, cysteine and aspartic proteases. Metalloprotease genes predominate in the L. (V.) braziliensis genome, while in the other three species studied, cysteine protease genes prevail. Notably, cysteine and serine protease genes were found to be very abundant, as they were found on all chromosomes of the four studied species. In contrast, only three aspartic protease genes could be detected in these four species. Regarding gene conservation, a higher number of conserved alleles was observed for cysteine proteases (42 alleles), followed by metalloproteases (35 alleles) and serine proteases (15 alleles).
The present study highlights substantial differences in the organization of protease genes among L. (L.) infantum, L. (L.) major, L. (L.) mexicana and L. (V.) braziliensis. We observed significant distinctions in many protease features, such as occurrence, quantity and conservation. These data indicate a great diversity of protease genes among Leishmania species, an aspect that may be related to their adaptations to the peculiarities of each microenvironment they inhabit, such as the gut of phlebotomines and the immune cells of vertebrate hosts.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1756-3305-7-387) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4158035  PMID: 25142315
Leishmania; Leishmania (Viannia) braziliensis; Leishmania (Leishmania) infantum; Leishmania (Leishmania) major; Leishmania (Leishmania) mexicana; Proteases
16.  Development of Novel Prime-Boost Strategies Based on a Tri-Gene Fusion Recombinant L. tarentolae Vaccine against Experimental Murine Visceral Leishmaniasis 
Visceral leishmaniasis (VL) is a vector-borne disease affecting humans and domestic animals that constitutes a serious public health problem in many countries. Although many antigens have been examined so far as protein- or DNA-based vaccines, none of them conferred complete long-term protection. The use of the lizard non-pathogenic to humans Leishmania (L.) tarentolae species as a live vaccine vector to deliver specific Leishmania antigens is a recent approach that needs to be explored further. In this study, we evaluated the effectiveness of live vaccination in protecting BALB/c mice against L. infantum infection using prime-boost regimens, namely Live/Live and DNA/Live. As a live vaccine, we used recombinant L. tarentolae expressing the L. donovani A2 antigen along with cysteine proteinases (CPA and CPB without its unusual C-terminal extension (CPB-CTE)) as a tri-fusion gene. For DNA priming, the tri-fusion gene was encoded in pcDNA formulated with cationic solid lipid nanoparticles (cSLN) acting as an adjuvant. At different time points post-challenge, parasite burden and histopathological changes as well as humoral and cellular immune responses were assessed. Our results showed that immunization with both prime-boost A2-CPA-CPB-CTE-recombinant L. tarentolae protects BALB/c mice against L. infantum challenge. This protective immunity is associated with a Th1-type immune response due to high levels of IFN-γ production prior and after challenge and with lower levels of IL-10 production after challenge, leading to a significantly higher IFN-γ/IL-10 ratio compared to the control groups. Moreover, this immunization elicited high IgG1 and IgG2a humoral immune responses. Protection in mice was also correlated with a high nitric oxide production and low parasite burden. Altogether, these results indicate the promise of the A2-CPA-CPB-CTE-recombinant L. tarentolae as a safe live vaccine candidate against VL.
Author Summary
Visceral leishmaniasis (VL) is the most severe form of leishmaniasis and has emerged as an opportunistic infection in HIV-1 infected patients in many parts of the world. Drug-resistant forms have developed so emergence and increased the need for advanced preventive strategies. Using live avirulent organisms as a vaccine has been proven to be more effective than other regimens. The lizard protozoan parasite Leishmania tarentolae is considered as nonpathogenic to humans. In our previous work, a recombinant L. tarentolae strain expressing the amastigote-specific L. donovani A2 antigen as a vaccine candidate elicited protection against L. infantum challenge in mice. Furthermore, combinations of CPA/CPB cysteine proteinases were more protective against visceral and cutaneous Leishmania infections than the individual forms. Herein, we used DNA/Live and Live/Live prime-boost vaccination strategies against visceral leishmaniasis in BALB/c mice consisting of the A2-CPA-CPB-CTE tri-fusion genes formulated with cationic solid lipid nanoparticles and a recombinant L. tarentolae expressing the tri-fusion. Assessments of cytokine production, humoral responses, parasite burden and histopathological studies support that the recombinant L. tarentolae A2-CPA-CPB-CTE candidate vaccine elicits a protective response against visceral leishmaniasis in mice and represents an important step forward in the development of new vaccine combinations against Leishmania infections.
PMCID: PMC3630202  PMID: 23638195
17.  Falstatin, a Cysteine Protease Inhibitor of Plasmodium falciparum, Facilitates Erythrocyte Invasion 
PLoS Pathogens  2006;2(11):e117.
Erythrocytic malaria parasites utilize proteases for a number of cellular processes, including hydrolysis of hemoglobin, rupture of erythrocytes by mature schizonts, and subsequent invasion of erythrocytes by free merozoites. However, mechanisms used by malaria parasites to control protease activity have not been established. We report here the identification of an endogenous cysteine protease inhibitor of Plasmodium falciparum, falstatin, based on modest homology with the Trypanosoma cruzi cysteine protease inhibitor chagasin. Falstatin, expressed in Escherichia coli, was a potent reversible inhibitor of the P. falciparum cysteine proteases falcipain-2 and falcipain-3, as well as other parasite- and nonparasite-derived cysteine proteases, but it was a relatively weak inhibitor of the P. falciparum cysteine proteases falcipain-1 and dipeptidyl aminopeptidase 1. Falstatin is present in schizonts, merozoites, and rings, but not in trophozoites, the stage at which the cysteine protease activity of P. falciparum is maximal. Falstatin localizes to the periphery of rings and early schizonts, is diffusely expressed in late schizonts and merozoites, and is released upon the rupture of mature schizonts. Treatment of late schizionts with antibodies that blocked the inhibitory activity of falstatin against native and recombinant falcipain-2 and falcipain-3 dose-dependently decreased the subsequent invasion of erythrocytes by merozoites. These results suggest that P. falciparum requires expression of falstatin to limit proteolysis by certain host or parasite cysteine proteases during erythrocyte invasion. This mechanism of regulation of proteolysis suggests new strategies for the development of antimalarial agents that specifically disrupt erythrocyte invasion.
Malaria causes hundreds of millions of illnesses and more than a million deaths each year. Illness is caused by infection of red blood cells, with repeated rounds of red cell invasion, parasite development, and red cell rupture. Among enzymes with important roles in malaria parasites are proteases, which break down other proteins. Functions of proteases include the breakdown of red cell hemoglobin, the release of parasites from red cells, and the invasion of red cells by free parasites. This work concerns the identification and characterization of a protease inhibitor of malaria parasites termed falstatin. Falstatin inhibits one class of proteases, cysteine proteases, from both malaria parasites and humans. It is produced from soon before until soon after the processes of red cell rupture and invasion. Incubation of malaria parasites with an antibody that prevents the effects of falstatin markedly inhibited red cell invasion. Thus, falstatin appears to facilitate red cell invasion, presumably by preventing the action of proteases that hinder this process. Falstatin may therefore be a potential new target for vaccines or drugs to control malaria.
PMCID: PMC1630708  PMID: 17083274
18.  Aziridine-2,3-Dicarboxylates, Peptidomimetic Cysteine Protease Inhibitors with Antileishmanial Activity 
Chemotherapy of leishmaniasis is mainly based on antimonials. However, they are extremely toxic and cause serious side effects, and there is a worldwide increasing frequency of chemoresistance to antimonials. These issues emphasize the urgent need for affordable alternative drugs against leishmaniasis. Leishmania cysteine proteases are essential for parasite growth, differentiation, pathogenicity, and virulence and are thus attractive targets for combating leishmaniasis. Herein we demonstrate that the cysteine protease inhibitors aziridine-2,3-dicarboxylates 13b and 13e impaired promastigote growth at mid-micromolar concentrations and decreased the infection rate of peritoneal macrophages at concentrations 8- to 13-fold lower than those needed to inhibit parasite replication. Simultaneous treatment of infected cells with compound 13b and gamma interferon resulted in an even further reduction of the concentration needed for a significant decrease in macrophage infection rate. Notably, treatment with the compounds alone modulated the cytokine secretion of infected macrophages, with increased levels of interleukin-12 and tumor necrosis factor alpha. Furthermore, the decreased infection rate in the presence of compound 13b correlated with increased nitric oxide production by macrophages. Importantly, at the concentrations used herein, compounds 13b and 13e were not toxic against fibroblasts, macrophages, or dendritic cells. Together, these results suggest that the aziridine-2,3-dicarboxylates 13b and 13e are potential antileishmanial lead compounds with low toxicity against host cells and selective antiparasitic effects.
PMCID: PMC1489792  PMID: 16801424
19.  Mapping Inhibitor Binding Modes on an Active Cysteine Protease via NMR Spectroscopy 
Biochemistry  2012;51(50):10087-10098.
Cruzain is a member of the papain/cathepsin-L family of cysteine proteases, and the major cysteine protease of the protozoan Trypanosoma cruzi, the causative agent of Chagas’ disease. We report an auto-induction methodology that provides soluble-cruzain at high yields (> 30 mg per liter in minimal media). These increased yields provide sufficient quantities of active enzyme for use in NMR-based ligand mapping. Using CD and NMR spectroscopy, we also examined the solution-state structural dynamics of the enzyme in complex with a covalently bound vinyl sulfone inhibitor (K777). We report the backbone amide and side chain carbon chemical shift assignments of cruzain in complex with K777. These resonance assignments were used to identify and map residues located in the substrate binding pocket, including the catalytic Cys25 and His162. Selective 15N-Cys, 15N-His, and 13C-Met labeling was performed to quickly assess cruzain-ligand interactions for a set of eight low molecular weight compounds exhibiting micromolar binding or inhibition. Chemical shift perturbation mapping verifies that six of the eight compounds bind to cruzain at the active site. Three different binding modes were delineated for the compounds, namely covalent, non-covalent, and non-interacting. These results provide examples of how NMR spectroscopy can be used to screen compounds for fast evaluation of enzyme-inhibitor interactions in order to facilitate lead compound identification and subsequent structural studies.
PMCID: PMC3566641  PMID: 23181936
20.  Inhibitor of Cysteine Proteases Is Critical for Motility and Infectivity of Plasmodium Sporozoites 
mBio  2013;4(6):e00874-13.
Malaria is transmitted when motile sporozoites are injected into the dermis by an infected female Anopheles mosquito. Inside the mosquito vector, sporozoites egress from midgut-associated oocysts and eventually penetrate the acinar cells of salivary glands. Parasite-encoded factors with exclusive vital roles in the insect vector can be studied by classical reverse genetics. Here, we characterized the in vivo roles of Plasmodium berghei falstatin/ICP (inhibitor of cysteine proteases). This protein was previously suggested to act as a protease inhibitor during erythrocyte invasion. We show by targeted gene disruption that loss of ICP function does not affect growth inside the mammalian host but causes a complete defect in sporozoite transmission. Sporogony occurred normally in icp(−) parasites, but hemocoel sporozoites showed a defect in continuous gliding motility and infectivity for salivary glands, which are prerequisites for sporozoite transmission to the mammalian host. Absence of ICP correlates with enhanced cleavage of circumsporozoite protein, in agreement with a role as a protease regulator. We conclude that ICP is essential for only the final stages of sporozoite maturation inside the mosquito vector. This study is the first genetic evidence that an ICP is necessary for the productive motility of a eukaryotic parasitic cell.
Cysteine proteases and their inhibitors are considered ideal drug targets for the treatment of a wide range of diseases, including cancer and parasitic infections. In protozoan parasites, including Leishmania, Trypanosoma, and Plasmodium, cysteine proteases play important roles in life cycle progression. A mouse malaria model provides an unprecedented opportunity to study the roles of a parasite-encoded inhibitor of cysteine proteases (ICP) over the entire parasite life cycle. By precise gene deletion, we found no evidence that ICP influences disease progression or parasite virulence. Instead, we discovered that this factor is necessary for parasite movement and malaria transmission from mosquitoes to mammals. This finding in a fast-moving unicellular protozoan has important implications for malaria intervention strategies and the roles of ICPs in the regulation of eukaryotic cell migration.
PMCID: PMC3870247  PMID: 24281719
21.  Partial Purification and Characterization of a Cysteine Protease Inhibitor from the Plerocercoid of Spirometra erinacei 
Helminthic cysteine proteases are well known to play critical roles in tissue invasion, nutrient uptake, and immune evasion of the parasites. In the same manner, the sparganum, the plerocercoid of Spirometra mansoni, is also known to secrete a large amount of cysteine proteases. However, cysteine protease inhibitors regulating the proteolytic activities of the cysteine protease are poorly illustrated. In this regard, we partially purified an endogenous cysteine protease inhibitor from spargana and characterized its biochemical properties. The cysteine protease inhibitor was purified by sequential chromatographies using Resource Q anion exchanger and Superdex 200 HR gel filtration from crude extracts of spargana. The molecular weight of the purified protein was estimated to be about 11 kD on SDS-PAGE. It was able to inhibit papain and 27 kDa cysteine protease of spargana with the ratio of 25.7% and 49.1%, respectively, while did not inhibit chymotrypsin. This finding suggests that the cysteine protease inhibitor of spargana may be involved in regulation of endogenous cysteine proteases of the parasite, rather than interact with cysteine proteases from their hosts.
PMCID: PMC2553344  PMID: 18830060
Spirometra mansoni; plerocercoid; sparganum; cysteine protease; inhibitor
22.  A Virus Essential for Insect Host-Parasite Interactions Encodes Cystatins 
Journal of Virology  2005;79(15):9765-9776.
Cotesia congregata is a parasitoid wasp that injects its eggs in the host caterpillar Manduca sexta. In this host-parasite interaction, successful parasitism is ensured by a third partner: a bracovirus. The relationship between parasitic wasps and bracoviruses constitutes one of the few known mutualisms between viruses and eukaryotes. The C. congregata bracovirus (CcBV) is injected at the same time as the wasp eggs in the host hemolymph. Expression of viral genes alters the caterpillar's immune defense responses and developmental program, resulting in the creation of a favorable environment for the survival and emergence of adult parasitoid wasps. Here, we describe the characterization of a CcBV multigene family which is highly expressed during parasitism and which encodes three proteins with homology to members of the cystatin superfamily. Cystatins are tightly binding, reversible inhibitors of cysteine proteases. Other cysteine protease inhibitors have been described for lepidopteran viruses; however, this is the first description of the presence of cystatins in a viral genome. The expression and purification of a recombinant form of one of the CcBV cystatins, cystatin 1, revealed that this viral cystatin is functional having potent inhibitory activity towards the cysteine proteases papain, human cathepsins L and B and Sarcophaga cathepsin B in assays in vitro. CcBV cystatins are, therefore, likely to play a role in host caterpillar physiological deregulation by inhibiting host target proteases in the course of the host-parasite interaction.
PMCID: PMC1181612  PMID: 16014938
23.  C-Terminal Domain Deletion Enhances the Protective Activity of cpa/cpb Loaded Solid Lipid Nanoparticles against Leishmania major in BALB/c Mice 
We have demonstrated that vaccination with pDNA encoding cysteine proteinase Type II (CPA) and Type I (CPB) with its unusual C-terminal extension (CTE) can partially protect BALB/c mice against cutaneous leishmanial infection. Unfortunately, this protection is insufficient to completely control infection without booster injection. Furthermore, in developing vaccines for leishmaniasis, it is necessary to consider a proper adjuvant and/or delivery system to promote an antigen specific immune response. Solid lipid nanoparticles have found their way in drug delivery system development against intracellular infections and cancer, but not Leishmania DNA vaccination. Therefore, undefined effect of cationic solid lipid nanoparticles (cSLN) as an adjuvant in enhancing the immune response toward leishmanial antigens led us to refocus our vaccine development projects.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Three pDNAs encoding L. major cysteine proteinase type I and II (with or without CTE) were formulated by cSLN. BALB/c mice were immunized twice by 3-week interval, with cSLN-pcDNA-cpa/b, pcDNA-cpa/b, cSLN-pcDNA-cpa/b-CTE, pcDNA-cpa/b-CTE, cSLN, cSLN-pcDNA and PBS. Mice vaccinated with cSLN-pcDNA-cpa/b-CTE showed significantly higher levels of parasite inhibition related to protection with specific Th1 immune response development, compared to other groups. Parasite inhibition was determined by different techniques currently available in exploration vacciation efficacy, i.e., flowcytometry on footpad and lymph node, footpad caliper based measurements and imaging as well as lymph node microtitration assay. Among these techniques, lymph node flowcytometry was found to be the most rapid, sensitive and easily reproducible method for discrimination between the efficacy of vaccination strategies.
This report demonstrates cSLN's ability to boost immune response magnitude of cpa/cpb-CTE cocktail vaccination against leishmaniasis so that the average parasite inhibition percent could be increased significantly. Hence, cSLNs can be considered as suitable adjuvant and/or delivery systems for designing third generation cocktail vaccines.
Author Summary
Cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL) is the most common form of leishmaniasis with an annual incidence of approximately 2 million cases and is endemic in 88 countries, including Iran. CL's continued spread, along with rather ineffectual treatments and drug-resistant variants emergence has increased the need for advanced preventive strategies. We studied Type II cysteine proteinase (CPA) and Type I (CPB) with its C-terminal extension (CTE) as cocktail DNA vaccine against murine and canine leishmaniasis. However, adjuvants' success in enhancing immune responses to selected antigens led us to refocus our vaccine development programs. Herein, we discuss cationic solid lipid nanoparticles' (cSLN) ability to improve vaccine-induced protective efficacy against CL and subsequent lesion size and parasite load reduction in BALB/c mice. For this work, we evaluated five different conventional as well as novel parasite detection techniques, i.e., footpad imaging, footpad flowcytometry and lymph node flowcytometry for disease progression assessments. Vaccination with cSLN-cpa/cpb-CTE formulation showed highest parasite inhibition at 3-month post vaccination. Immunized mice showed reduced IL-5 level and significant IFN-ã increase, compared to control groups. We think our study represents a potential future and a major step forward in vaccine development against leishmaniasis.
PMCID: PMC3134432  PMID: 21765963
24.  Enhanced Protective Efficacy of Nonpathogenic Recombinant Leishmania tarentolae Expressing Cysteine Proteinases Combined with a Sand Fly Salivary Antigen 
Novel vaccination approaches are needed to prevent leishmaniasis. Live attenuated vaccines are the gold standard for protection against intracellular pathogens such as Leishmania and there have been new developments in this field. The nonpathogenic to humans lizard protozoan parasite, Leishmania (L) tarentolae, has been used effectively as a vaccine platform against visceral leishmaniasis in experimental animal models. Correspondingly, pre-exposure to sand fly saliva or immunization with a salivary protein has been shown to protect mice against cutaneous leishmaniasis.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Here, we tested the efficacy of a novel combination of established protective parasite antigens expressed by L. tarentolae together with a sand fly salivary antigen as a vaccine strategy against L. major infection. The immunogenicity and protective efficacy of different DNA/Live and Live/Live prime-boost vaccination modalities with live recombinant L. tarentolae stably expressing cysteine proteinases (type I and II, CPA/CPB) and PpSP15, an immunogenic salivary protein from Phlebotomus papatasi, a natural vector of L. major, were tested both in susceptible BALB/c and resistant C57BL/6 mice. Both humoral and cellular immune responses were assessed before challenge and at 3 and 10 weeks after Leishmania infection. In both strains of mice, the strongest protective effect was observed when priming with PpSP15 DNA and boosting with PpSP15 DNA and live recombinant L. tarentolae stably expressing cysteine proteinase genes.
The present study is the first to use a combination of recombinant L. tarentolae with a sand fly salivary antigen (PpSP15) and represents a novel promising vaccination approach against leishmaniasis.
Author Summary
More than 98 countries are reported as endemic for leishmaniasis, a vector-borne disease transmitted by sand flies. Drug-resistant forms have emerged and there is an increased need to develop advanced preventive strategies. Live attenuated vaccines are the gold standard for protection against intracellular pathogens such as Leishmania and there have been new developments in this field. The lizard protozoan parasite, L. tarentolae, is nonpathogenic to humans and has been used effectively as a vaccine platform against visceral leishmaniasis in experimental animal models. Correspondingly, pre-exposure to sand fly saliva or immunization with salivary proteins has been shown to protect mice against cutaneous leishmaniasis. Herein, we used DNA/Live and Live/Live prime-boost vaccination strategies against cutaneous leishmaniasis based on recombinant L. tarentolae stably expressing CPA/CPB genes with and without the sand fly salivary antigen PpSP15 in both resistant and susceptible mice models. Assessment of the immune response and parasite burden in vaccinated mice at different time intervals post-challenge demonstrated that combination of recombinant L. tarentolae CPA/CPB with PpSP15 DNA elicits an enhanced protective immune response against cutaneous leishmaniasis in mice. This parasite- and insect vector-derived antigen combination represents an important step forward in the development of new vaccine strategies against Leishmania infections.
PMCID: PMC3967951  PMID: 24675711
25.  Cathepsin B-like and cell death in the unicellular human pathogen Leishmania 
Cell Death & Disease  2010;1(9):e71-.
In several studies reporting cell death (CD) in lower eukaryotes and in the human protozoan parasite Leishmania, proteolytic activity was revealed using pan-caspase substrates or inhibitors such as carbobenzoxy-valyl-alanyl-aspartyl-[O-methyl]-fluoromethylketone (Z-VAD-FMK). However, most of the lower eukaryotes do not encode caspase(s) but MCA, which differs from caspase(s) in its substrate specificity and cannot be accountable for the recognition of Z-VAD-FMK. In the present study, we were interested in identifying which enzyme was capturing the Z-VAD substrate. We show that heat shock (HS) induces Leishmania CD and leads to the intracellular binding of Z-VAD-FMK. We excluded binding and inhibition of Z-VAD-FMK to Leishmania major metacaspase (LmjMCA), and identified cysteine proteinase C (LmjCPC), a cathepsin B-like (CPC) enzyme, as the Z-VAD-FMK binding enzyme. We confirmed the specific interaction of Z-VAD-FMK with CPC by showing that Z-VAD binding is absent in a Leishmania mexicana strain in which the cpc gene was deleted. We also show that parasites exposed to various stress conditions release CPC into a soluble fraction. Finally, we confirmed the role of CPC in Leishmania CD by showing that, when exposed to the oxidizing agent hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), cpc knockout parasites survived better than wild-type parasites (WT). In conclusion, this study identified CPC as the substrate of Z-VAD-FMK in Leishmania and as a potential additional executioner protease in the CD cascade of Leishmania and possibly in other lower eukaryotes.
PMCID: PMC3032344  PMID: 21364675
cysteine peptidase; cathepsin B; biotin-VAD-FMK; Leishmania; trypanosomes; unicellular organisms

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