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1.  An in vivo large-scale chemical screening platform using Drosophila for anti-cancer drug discovery 
Disease Models & Mechanisms  2012;6(2):521-529.
Anti-cancer drug development involves enormous expenditure and risk. For rapid and economical identification of novel, bioavailable anti-tumour chemicals, the use of appropriate in vivo tumour models suitable for large-scale screening is key. Using a Drosophila Ras-driven tumour model, we demonstrate that tumour overgrowth can be curtailed by feeding larvae with chemicals that have the in vivo pharmacokinetics essential for drug development and known efficacy against human tumour cells. We then develop an in vivo 96-well plate chemical screening platform to carry out large-scale chemical screening with the tumour model. In a proof-of-principle pilot screen of 2000 compounds, we identify the glutamine analogue, acivicin, a chemical with known activity against human tumour cells, as a potent and specific inhibitor of Drosophila tumour formation. RNAi-mediated knockdown of candidate acivicin target genes implicates an enzyme involved in pyrimidine biosynthesis, CTP synthase, as a possible crucial target of acivicin-mediated inhibition. Thus, the pilot screen has revealed that Drosophila tumours are glutamine-dependent, which is an emerging feature of many human cancers, and has validated the platform as a powerful and economical tool for in vivo chemical screening. The platform can also be adapted for use with other disease models, thus offering widespread applications in drug development.
PMCID: PMC3597034  PMID: 22996645
2.  Discovery of 2-iminobenzimidazoles as a new class of trypanothione reductase inhibitor by high-throughput screening 
A high-throughput screening campaign of a library of 100,000 lead-like compounds identified 2-iminobenzimidazoles as a novel class of trypanothione reductase inhibitors. These 2-iminobenzimidazoles display potent trypanocidal activity against Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense, do not inhibit closely related human glutathione reductase and have low cytotoxicity against mammalian cells.
PMCID: PMC3428904  PMID: 17194585
Tropical diseases; Trypanosomiasis therapeutics; Trypanothione reductase inhibitors; High-throughput screening; Medicinal chemistry; Imino benzimidazoles
3.  Inhibitors of Leishmania GDP-Mannose Pyrophosphorylase Identified by High-Throughput Screening of Small-Molecule Chemical Library ▿  
The current treatment for leishmaniasis is based on chemotherapy, which relies on a handful of drugs with serious limitations, such as high cost, toxicity, and a lack of efficacy in regions of endemicity. Therefore, the development of new, effective, and affordable antileishmanial drugs is a global health priority. Leishmania synthesizes a range of mannose-rich glycoconjugates that are essential for parasite virulence and survival. A prerequisite for glycoconjugate biosynthesis is the conversion of monosaccharides to the activated mannose donor, GDP-mannose, the product of a reaction catalyzed by GDP-mannose pyrophosphorylase (GDP-MP). The deletion of the gene encoding GDP-MP in Leishmania led to a total loss of virulence, indicating that the enzyme is an ideal drug target. We developed a phosphate sensor-based high-throughput screening assay to quantify the activity of GDP-MP and screened a library containing ∼80,000 lead-like compounds for GDP-MP inhibitors. On the basis of their GDP-MP inhibitory properties and chemical structures, the activities of 20 compounds which were not toxic to mammalian cells were tested against ex vivo amastigotes and in macrophage amastigote assays. The most potent compound identified in the primary screen (compound 3), a quinoline derivative, demonstrated dose-dependent activity in both assays (50% inhibitory concentration = 21.9 μM in the macrophage assay) and was shown to be nontoxic to human fibroblasts. In order to elucidate signs of an early structure-activity relationship (SAR) for this class of compounds, we obtained and tested analogues of compound 3 and undertook limited medicinal chemistry optimization, which included the use of a number of SAR probes of the piperazinyl aryl substituent of compound 3. We have identified novel candidate compounds for the design and synthesis of antileishmanial therapeutics.
PMCID: PMC2863604  PMID: 20160053
4.  Trypanothione Reductase High-Throughput Screening Campaign Identifies Novel Classes of Inhibitors with Antiparasitic Activity ▿ †  
High-throughput screening of 100,000 lead-like compounds led to the identification of nine novel chemical classes of trypanothione reductase (TR) inhibitors worthy of further investigation. Hits from five of these chemical classes have been developed further through different combinations of preliminary structure-activity relationship rate probing and assessment of antiparasitic activity, cytotoxicity, and chemical and in vitro metabolic properties. This has led to the identification of novel TR inhibitor chemotypes that are drug-like and display antiparasitic activity. For one class, a series of analogues have displayed a correlation between TR inhibition and antiparasitic activity. This paper explores the process of identifying, investigating, and evaluating a series of hits from a high-throughput screening campaign.
PMCID: PMC2704697  PMID: 19364854
5.  Dihydroquinazolines as a Novel Class of Trypanosoma brucei Trypanothione Reductase Inhibitors: Discovery, Synthesis, and Characterization of their Binding Mode by Protein Crystallography 
Journal of Medicinal Chemistry  2011;54(19):6514-6530.
Trypanothione reductase (TryR) is a genetically validated drug target in the parasite Trypanosoma brucei, the causative agent of human African trypanosomiasis. Here we report the discovery, synthesis, and development of a novel series of TryR inhibitors based on a 3,4-dihydroquinazoline scaffold. In addition, a high resolution crystal structure of TryR, alone and in complex with substrates and inhibitors from this series, is presented. This represents the first report of a high resolution complex between a noncovalent ligand and this enzyme. Structural studies revealed that upon ligand binding the enzyme undergoes a conformational change to create a new subpocket which is occupied by an aryl group on the ligand. Therefore, the inhibitor, in effect, creates its own small binding pocket within the otherwise large, solvent exposed active site. The TryR–ligand structure was subsequently used to guide the synthesis of inhibitors, including analogues that challenged the induced subpocket. This resulted in the development of inhibitors with improved potency against both TryR and T. brucei parasites in a whole cell assay.
PMCID: PMC3188286  PMID: 21851087

Results 1-5 (5)