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1.  Discovery of a Quinoline-4-carboxamide Derivative with a Novel Mechanism of Action, Multistage Antimalarial Activity, and Potent in Vivo Efficacy 
Journal of Medicinal Chemistry  2016;59(21):9672-9685.
The antiplasmodial activity, DMPK properties, and efficacy of a series of quinoline-4-carboxamides are described. This series was identified from a phenotypic screen against the blood stage of Plasmodium falciparum (3D7) and displayed moderate potency but with suboptimal physicochemical properties and poor microsomal stability. The screening hit (1, EC50 = 120 nM) was optimized to lead molecules with low nanomolar in vitro potency. Improvement of the pharmacokinetic profile led to several compounds showing excellent oral efficacy in the P. berghei malaria mouse model with ED90 values below 1 mg/kg when dosed orally for 4 days. The favorable potency, selectivity, DMPK properties, and efficacy coupled with a novel mechanism of action, inhibition of translation elongation factor 2 (PfEF2), led to progression of 2 (DDD107498) to preclinical development.
doi:10.1021/acs.jmedchem.6b00723
PMCID: PMC5108032  PMID: 27631715
2.  A novel multiple-stage antimalarial agent that inhibits protein synthesis 
Nature  2015;522(7556):315-320.
Summary
There is an urgent need for new drugs to treat malaria, with broad therapeutic potential and novel modes of action, to widen the scope of treatment and to overcome emerging drug resistance. We describe the discovery of DDD107498, a compound with a potent and novel spectrum of antimalarial activity against multiple life-cycle stages of the parasite, with good pharmacokinetic properties, and an acceptable safety profile. DDD107498 demonstrates potential to address a variety of clinical needs, including single dose treatment, transmission blocking and chemoprotection. DDD107498 was developed from a screening programme against blood stage malaria parasites; its molecular target has been identified as translation elongation factor 2 (eEF2), which is responsible for the GTP-dependent translocation of the ribosome along mRNA, and is essential for protein synthesis. This discovery of eEF2 as a viable antimalarial drug target opens up new possibilities for drug discovery.
doi:10.1038/nature14451
PMCID: PMC4700930  PMID: 26085270
3.  Development of Small-Molecule Trypanosoma brucei N-Myristoyltransferase Inhibitors: Discovery and Optimisation of a Novel Binding Mode 
Chemmedchem  2015;10(11):1821-1836.
The enzyme N-myristoyltransferase (NMT) from Trypanosoma brucei has been validated both chemically and biologically as a potential drug target for human African trypanosomiasis. We previously reported the development of some very potent compounds based around a pyrazole sulfonamide series, derived from a high-throughput screen. Herein we describe work around thiazolidinone and benzomorpholine scaffolds that were also identified in the screen. An X-ray crystal structure of the thiazolidinone hit in Leishmania major NMT showed the compound bound in the previously reported active site, utilising a novel binding mode. This provides potential for further optimisation. The benzomorpholinone was also found to bind in a similar region. Using an X-ray crystallography/structure-based design approach, the benzomorpholinone series was further optimised, increasing activity against T. brucei NMT by >1000-fold. A series of trypanocidal compounds were identified with suitable in vitro DMPK properties, including CNS exposure for further development. Further work is required to increase selectivity over the human NMT isoform and activity against T. brucei.
doi:10.1002/cmdc.201500301
PMCID: PMC4648043  PMID: 26395087
human African trypanosomiasis (HAT); medicinal chemistry; N-myristoyltransferase; structure-based drug design; Trypanosoma brucei
4.  Discovery of Inhibitors of Trypanosoma brucei by Phenotypic Screening of a Focused Protein Kinase Library 
Chemmedchem  2015;10(11):1809-1820.
A screen of a focused kinase inhibitor library against Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense led to the identification of seven series, totaling 121 compounds, which showed >50 % inhibition at 5 μm. Screening of these hits in a T. b. brucei proliferation assay highlighted three compounds with a 1H-imidazo[4,5-b]pyrazin-2(3H)-one scaffold that showed sub-micromolar activity and excellent selectivity against the MRC5 cell line. Subsequent rounds of optimisation led to the identification of compounds that exhibited good in vitro drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics (DMPK) properties, although in general this series suffered from poor solubility. A scaffold-hopping exercise led to the identification of a 1H-pyrazolo[3,4-b]pyridine scaffold, which retained potency. A number of examples were assessed in a T. b. brucei growth assay, which could differentiate static and cidal action. Compounds from the 1H-imidazo[4,5-b]pyrazin-2(3H)-one series were found to be either static or growth-slowing and not cidal. Compounds with the 1H-pyrazolo[3,4-b]pyridine scaffold were found to be cidal and showed an unusual biphasic nature in this assay, suggesting they act by at least two mechanisms.
doi:10.1002/cmdc.201500300
PMCID: PMC4648050  PMID: 26381210
cidal; kinases; phenotypic; static; Trypanosoma brucei
5.  Discovery of Indoline-2-carboxamide Derivatives as a New Class of Brain-Penetrant Inhibitors of Trypanosoma brucei 
Journal of Medicinal Chemistry  2015;58(19):7695-7706.
There is an urgent need for new, brain penetrant small molecules that target the central nervous system second stage of human African trypanosomiasis (HAT). We report that a series of novel indoline-2-carboxamides have been identified as inhibitors of Trypanosoma brucei from screening of a focused protease library against Trypanosoma brucei brucei in culture. We describe the optimization and characterization of this series. Potent antiproliferative activity was observed. The series demonstrated excellent pharmacokinetic properties, full cures in a stage 1 mouse model of HAT, and a partial cure in a stage 2 mouse model of HAT. Lack of tolerability prevented delivery of a fully curative regimen in the stage 2 mouse model and thus further progress of this series.
doi:10.1021/acs.jmedchem.5b00596
PMCID: PMC4601051  PMID: 26418485
6.  N-Myristoyltransferase Is a Cell Wall Target in Aspergillus fumigatus 
ACS Chemical Biology  2015;10(6):1425-1434.
Treatment of filamentous fungal infections relies on a limited repertoire of antifungal agents. Compounds possessing novel modes of action are urgently required. N-myristoylation is a ubiquitous modification of eukaryotic proteins. The enzyme N-myristoyltransferase (NMT) has been considered a potential therapeutic target in protozoa and yeasts. Here, we show that the filamentous fungal pathogen Aspergillus fumigatus possesses an active NMT enzyme that is essential for survival. Surprisingly, partial repression of the gene revealed downstream effects of N-myristoylation on cell wall morphology. Screening a library of inhibitors led to the discovery of a pyrazole sulphonamide compound that inhibits the enzyme and is fungicidal under partially repressive nmt conditions. Together with a crystallographic complex showing the inhibitor binding in the peptide substrate pocket, we provide evidence of NMT being a potential drug target in A. fumigatus.
doi:10.1021/cb5008647
PMCID: PMC4477619  PMID: 25706802
8.  Respiratory Flexibility in Response to Inhibition of Cytochrome c Oxidase in Mycobacterium tuberculosis 
Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy  2014;58(11):6962-6965.
We report here a series of five chemically diverse scaffolds that have in vitro activities on replicating and hypoxic nonreplicating bacilli by targeting the respiratory bc1 complex in Mycobacterium tuberculosis in a strain-dependent manner. Deletion of the cytochrome bd oxidase generated a hypersusceptible mutant in which resistance was acquired by a mutation in qcrB. These results highlight the promiscuity of the bc1 complex and the risk of targeting energy metabolism with new drugs.
doi:10.1128/AAC.03486-14
PMCID: PMC4249445  PMID: 25155596
9.  Identification and structure solution of fragment hits against kinetoplastid N-myristoyltransferase 
N-Myristoyltransferase (NMT) has been shown to be an attractive target for the development of novel therapeutic agents for the treatment of human African trypanosomiasis. A fragment library has been screened using NMR spectroscopy and the binding mode of the hits was confirmed by X-ray crystallography using L. major NMT as a structural surrogate.
Trypanosoma brucei N-myristoyltransferase (TbNMT) is an attractive therapeutic target for the treatment of human African trypanosomiasis. Pyrazole sulfonamide (DDD85646), a potent inhibitor of TbNMT, has been identified in previous studies; however, poor central nervous system exposure restricts its use to the haemolymphatic form (stage 1) of the disease. In order to identify new chemical matter, a fragment screen was carried out by ligand-observed NMR spectroscopy, identifying hits that occupy the DDD85646 binding site. Crystal structures of hits from this assay have been obtained in complex with the closely related NMT from Leishmania major, providing a structural starting point for the evolution of novel chemical matter.
doi:10.1107/S2053230X15003040
PMCID: PMC4427169  PMID: 25945713
N-myristoyltransferase; Trypanosoma brucei; African trypanosomiasis
10.  A Target Repurposing Approach Identifies N-myristoyltransferase as a New Candidate Drug Target in Filarial Nematodes 
Myristoylation is a lipid modification involving the addition of a 14-carbon unsaturated fatty acid, myristic acid, to the N-terminal glycine of a subset of proteins, a modification that promotes their binding to cell membranes for varied biological functions. The process is catalyzed by myristoyl-CoA:protein N-myristoyltransferase (NMT), an enzyme which has been validated as a drug target in human cancers, and for infectious diseases caused by fungi, viruses and protozoan parasites. We purified Caenorhabditis elegans and Brugia malayi NMTs as active recombinant proteins and carried out kinetic analyses with their essential fatty acid donor, myristoyl-CoA and peptide substrates. Biochemical and structural analyses both revealed that the nematode enzymes are canonical NMTs, sharing a high degree of conservation with protozoan NMT enzymes. Inhibitory compounds that target NMT in protozoan species inhibited the nematode NMTs with IC50 values of 2.5–10 nM, and were active against B. malayi microfilariae and adult worms at 12.5 µM and 50 µM respectively, and C. elegans (25 µM) in culture. RNA interference and gene deletion in C. elegans further showed that NMT is essential for nematode viability. The effects observed are likely due to disruption of the function of several downstream target proteins. Potential substrates of NMT in B. malayi are predicted using bioinformatic analysis. Our genetic and chemical studies highlight the importance of myristoylation in the synthesis of functional proteins in nematodes and have shown for the first time that NMT is required for viability in parasitic nematodes. These results suggest that targeting NMT could be a valid approach for the development of chemotherapeutic agents against nematode diseases including filariasis.
Author Summary
Lymphatic filariasis and onchocerciasis are neglected tropical diseases caused by filarial nematodes. The limitations of existing drugs to treat these infections highlight the need for new drugs. In the present study, we investigated myristoylation, a lipid modification of a subset of proteins that promotes their binding to cell membranes for varied biological functions. The process is catalyzed by N-myristoyltransferase (NMT), an enzyme which has been validated as a drug target in protozoan parasites. We performed kinetic analyses on Caenorhabditis elegans and Brugia malayi NMTs. NMT inhibitors were active against B. malayi microfilariae and adult worms, and C. elegans in culture. RNA interference and gene deletion in C. elegans further demonstrated that NMT is essential for nematode viability. Our genetic and chemical studies indicate the importance of myristoylation in the synthesis of functional proteins in nematodes and have shown for the first time that NMT is required for viability in parasitic nematodes. These results suggest that targeting NMT could be a valid approach for the development of new therapies against nematode infection including filarial diseases.
doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0003145
PMCID: PMC4154664  PMID: 25188325
11.  Clinically relevant enhancement of human sperm motility using compounds with reported phosphodiesterase inhibitor activity 
Human Reproduction (Oxford, England)  2014;29(10):2123-2135.
STUDY QUESTION
Can we identify compound(s) with reported phosphodiesterase inhibitor (PDEI) activity that could be added to human spermatozoa in vitro to enhance their motility without compromising other sperm functions?
SUMMARY ANSWER
We have identified several compounds that produce robust and effective stimulation of sperm motility and, importantly, have a positive response on patient samples.
WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY
For >20 years, the use of non-selective PDEIs, such as pentoxifylline, has been known to influence the motility of human spermatozoa; however, conflicting results have been obtained. It is now clear that human sperm express several different phosphodiesterases and these are compartmentalized at different regions of the cells. By using type-specific PDEIs, differential modulation of sperm motility may be achieved without adversely affecting other functions such as the acrosome reaction (AR).
STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION
This was a basic medical research study examining sperm samples from normozoospermic donors and subfertile patients attending the Assisted Conception Unit (ACU), Ninewells Hospital Dundee for diagnostic semen analysis, IVF and ICSI. Phase 1 screened 43 commercially available compounds with reported PDEI activity to identify lead compounds that stimulate sperm motility. Samples were exposed (20 min) to three concentrations (1, 10 and 100 µM) of compound, and selected candidates (n = 6) progressed to Phase 2, which provided a more comprehensive assessment using a battery of in vitro sperm function tests.
PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS
All healthy donors and subfertile patients were recruited at the Medical Research Institute, University of Dundee and ACU, Ninewells Hospital Dundee (ethical approval 08/S1402/6). In Phase 1, poor motility cells recovered from the 40% interface of the discontinuous density gradient were used as surrogates for patient samples. Pooled samples from three to four different donors were utilized in order to reduce variability and increase the number of cells available for simultaneous examination of multiple compounds. During Phase 2 testing, semen samples from 23 patients attending for either routine diagnostic andrology assessment or IVF/ICSI were prepared and exposed to selected compounds. Additionally, 48 aliquots of prepared samples, surplus to clinical use, were examined from IVF (n = 32) and ICSI (n = 16) patients to further determine the effects of selected compounds under clinical conditions of treatment. Effects of compounds on sperm motility were assessed by computer-assisted sperm analysis. A modified Kremer test using methyl cellulose was used to assess sperm functional ability to penetrate into viscous media. Sperm acrosome integrity and induction of apoptosis were assessed using the acrosomal content marker PSA-FITC and annexin V kit, respectively.
MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE
In Phase 1, six compounds were found to have a strong effect on poor motility samples with a magnitude of response of ≥60% increase in percentage total motility. Under capacitating and non-capacitating conditions, these compounds significantly (P ≤ 0.05) increased the percentage of total and progressive motility. Furthermore, these compounds enhanced penetration into a cervical mucus substitute (P ≤ 0.05). Finally, the AR was not significantly induced and these compounds did not significantly increase the externalization of phosphatidylserine (P = 0.6, respectively). In general, the six compounds maintained the stimulation of motility over long periods of time (180 min) and their effects were still observed after their removal. In examinations of clinical samples, there was a general observation of a more significant stimulation of sperm motility in samples with lower baseline motility. In ICSI samples, compounds #26, #37 and #38 were the most effective at significantly increasing total motility (88, 81 and 79% of samples, respectively) and progressive motility (94, 93 and 81% of samples, respectively). In conclusion, using a two-phased drug discovery screening approach including the examination of clinical samples, 3/43 compounds were identified as promising candidates for further study.
LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION
This is an in vitro study and caution must be taken when extrapolating the results. Data for patients were from one assessment and thus the robustness of responses needs to be established. The n values for ICSI samples were relatively small.
WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS
We have systematically screened and identified several compounds that have robust and effective stimulation (i.e. functional significance with longevity and no toxicity) of total and progressive motility under clinical conditions of treatment. These compounds could be clinical candidates with possibilities in terms of assisted reproductive technology options for current or future patients affected by asthenozoospermia or oligoasthenozoospermia.
STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTEREST(S)
This study was funded primarily by the MRC (DPFS) but with additional funding from the Wellcome Trust, Tenovus (Scotland), University of Dundee, NHS Tayside and Scottish Enterprise. The authors have no competing interests. A patent (#WO2013054111A1) has been published containing some of the information presented in this manuscript.
doi:10.1093/humrep/deu196
PMCID: PMC4481575  PMID: 25124668
sperm; male fertility; phosphodiesterase inhibitors; sperm motility; drug discovery
12.  De Novo Design of Protein Kinase Inhibitors by in Silico Identification of Hinge Region-Binding Fragments 
ACS Chemical Biology  2013;8(5):1044-1052.
Protein kinases constitute an attractive family of enzyme targets with high relevance to cell and disease biology. Small molecule inhibitors are powerful tools to dissect and elucidate the function of kinases in chemical biology research and to serve as potential starting points for drug discovery. However, the discovery and development of novel inhibitors remains challenging. Here, we describe a structure-based de novo design approach that generates novel, hinge-binding fragments that are synthetically feasible and can be elaborated to small molecule libraries. Starting from commercially available compounds, core fragments were extracted, filtered for pharmacophoric properties compatible with hinge-region binding, and docked into a panel of protein kinases. Fragments with a high consensus score were subsequently short-listed for synthesis. Application of this strategy led to a number of core fragments with no previously reported activity against kinases. Small libraries around the core fragments were synthesized, and representative compounds were tested against a large panel of protein kinases and subjected to co-crystallization experiments. Each of the tested compounds was active against at least one kinase, but not all kinases in the panel were inhibited. A number of compounds showed high ligand efficiencies for therapeutically relevant kinases; among them were MAPKAP-K3, SRPK1, SGK1, TAK1, and GCK for which only few inhibitors are reported in the literature.
doi:10.1021/cb300729y
PMCID: PMC3833278  PMID: 23534475
13.  Exploring the Trypanosoma brucei Hsp83 Potential as a Target for Structure Guided Drug Design 
Human African trypanosomiasis is a neglected parasitic disease that is fatal if untreated. The current drugs available to eliminate the causative agent Trypanosoma brucei have multiple liabilities, including toxicity, increasing problems due to treatment failure and limited efficacy. There are two approaches to discover novel antimicrobial drugs - whole-cell screening and target-based discovery. In the latter case, there is a need to identify and validate novel drug targets in Trypanosoma parasites. The heat shock proteins (Hsp), while best known as cancer targets with a number of drug candidates in clinical development, are a family of emerging targets for infectious diseases. In this paper, we report the exploration of T. brucei Hsp83 – a homolog of human Hsp90 – as a drug target using multiple biophysical and biochemical techniques. Our approach included the characterization of the chemical sensitivity of the parasitic chaperone against a library of known Hsp90 inhibitors by means of differential scanning fluorimetry (DSF). Several compounds identified by this screening procedure were further studied using isothermal titration calorimetry (ITC) and X-ray crystallography, as well as tested in parasite growth inhibitions assays. These experiments led us to the identification of a benzamide derivative compound capable of interacting with TbHsp83 more strongly than with its human homologs and structural rationalization of this selectivity. The results highlight the opportunities created by subtle structural differences to develop new series of compounds to selectively target the Trypanosoma brucei chaperone and effectively kill the sleeping sickness parasite.
Author Summary
Sleeping sickness, or human African trypanosomiasis (HAT), is a deadly neglected disease for which new therapeutic options are badly needed. Current drugs have several liabilities including toxicity and route of administration limiting their efficacy to combat the disease. Our study aimed at validating a potential new drug target against Trypanosoma brucei, its heat shock protein 83 (Hsp83). The chaperone was screened against a repurposed library composed of inhibitors against the human Hsp90. The compounds were assayed in their ability to bind the T. brucei protein and to kill the parasite. Our work has identified selective and high-affinity chemical compounds targeting the parasitic Hsp83. Additionally, structural studies were conducted to explore the observed selectivity of selected inhibitors. Our work has validated T. brucei Hsp83 as a potential target for future drug discovery campaigns. It has also shown the strength of repurposing chemical libraries developed against human proteins, emphasizing the possibility to piggyback current and past drug discovery efforts for other diseases in the search for new drugs against neglected tropical diseases.
doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0002492
PMCID: PMC3798429  PMID: 24147171
14.  From On-Target to Off-Target Activity: Identification and Optimisation of Trypanosoma brucei GSK3 Inhibitors and Their Characterisation as Anti-Trypanosoma brucei Drug Discovery Lead Molecules 
Chemmedchem  2013;8(7):1127-1137.
Human African trypanosomiasis (HAT) is a life-threatening disease with approximately 30 000–40 000 new cases each year. Trypanosoma brucei protein kinase GSK3 short (TbGSK3) is required for parasite growth and survival. Herein we report a screen of a focused kinase library against T. brucei GSK3. From this we identified a series of several highly ligand-efficient TbGSK3 inhibitors. Following the hit validation process, we optimised a series of diaminothiazoles, identifying low-nanomolar inhibitors of TbGSK3 that are potent in vitro inhibitors of T. brucei proliferation. We show that the TbGSK3 pharmacophore overlaps with that of one or more additional molecular targets.
doi:10.1002/cmdc.201300072
PMCID: PMC3728731  PMID: 23776181
antiprotozoal agents; GSK3; medicinal chemistry; protein kinases; Trypanosoma brucei
15.  Comparison of a High-Throughput High-Content Intracellular Leishmania donovani Assay with an Axenic Amastigote Assay 
Visceral leishmaniasis is a neglected tropical disease with significant health impact. The current treatments are poor, and there is an urgent need to develop new drugs. Primary screening assays used for drug discovery campaigns have typically used free-living forms of the Leishmania parasite to allow for high-throughput screening. Such screens do not necessarily reflect the physiological situation, as the disease-causing stage of the parasite resides inside human host cells. Assessing the drug sensitivity of intracellular parasites on scale has recently become feasible with the advent of high-content screening methods. We describe here a 384-well microscopy-based intramacrophage Leishmania donovani assay and compare it to an axenic amastigote system. A panel of eight reference compounds was tested in both systems, as well as a human counterscreen cell line, and our findings show that for most clinically used compounds both axenic and intramacrophage assays report very similar results. A set of 15,659 diverse compounds was also screened using both systems. This resulted in the identification of seven new antileishmanial compounds and revealed a high false-positive rate for the axenic assay. We conclude that the intramacrophage assay is more suited as a primary hit-discovery platform than the current form of axenic assay, and we discuss how modifications to the axenic assay may render it more suitable for hit-discovery.
doi:10.1128/AAC.02398-12
PMCID: PMC3697379  PMID: 23571538
16.  Quinol derivatives as potential trypanocidal agents 
Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry  2012;20(4):1607-1615.
Graphical abstract
Quinols have been developed as a class of potential anti-cancer compounds. They are thought to act as double Michael acceptors, forming two covalent bonds to their target protein(s). Quinols have also been shown to have activity against the parasite Trypanosoma brucei, the causative organism of human African trypanosomiasis, but they demonstrated little selectivity over mammalian MRC5 cells in a counter-screen. In this paper, we report screening of further examples of quinols against T. brucei. We were able to derive an SAR, but the compounds demonstrated little selectivity over MRC5 cells. In an approach to increase selectivity, we attached melamine and benzamidine motifs to the quinols, because these moieties are known to be selectively concentrated in the parasite by transporter proteins. In general these transporter motif-containing analogues showed increased selectivity; however they also showed reduced levels of potency against T. brucei.
doi:10.1016/j.bmc.2011.12.018
PMCID: PMC3281193  PMID: 22264753
Inhibitors; Medicinal chemistry; Trypanosoma brucei; P2 transporter; Quinols
17.  Discovery of a Novel Class of Orally Active Trypanocidal N-Myristoyltransferase Inhibitors 
Journal of Medicinal Chemistry  2011;55(1):140-152.
N-Myristoyltransferase (NMT) represents a promising drug target for human African trypanosomiasis (HAT), which is caused by the parasitic protozoa Trypanosoma brucei. We report the optimization of a high throughput screening hit (1) to give a lead molecule DDD85646 (63), which has potent activity against the enzyme (IC50 = 2 nM) and T. brucei (EC50 = 2 nM) in culture. The compound has good oral pharmacokinetics and cures rodent models of peripheral HAT infection. This compound provides an excellent tool for validation of T. brucei NMT as a drug target for HAT as well as a valuable lead for further optimization.
doi:10.1021/jm201091t
PMCID: PMC3256935  PMID: 22148754
18.  Antitumor Quinol PMX464 Is a Cytocidal Anti-trypanosomal Inhibitor Targeting Trypanothione Metabolism* 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2011;286(10):8523-8533.
Better drugs are urgently needed for the treatment of African sleeping sickness. We tested a series of promising anticancer agents belonging to the 4-substituted 4-hydroxycyclohexa-2,5-dienones class (“quinols”) and identified several with potent trypanocidal activity (EC50 < 100 nm). In mammalian cells, quinols are proposed to inhibit the thioredoxin/thioredoxin reductase system, which is absent from trypanosomes. Studies with the prototypical 4-benzothiazole-substituted quinol, PMX464, established that PMX464 is rapidly cytocidal, similar to the arsenical drug, melarsen oxide. Cell lysis by PMX464 was accelerated by addition of sublethal concentrations of glucose oxidase implicating oxidant defenses in the mechanism of action. Whole cells treated with PMX464 showed a loss of trypanothione (T(SH)2), a unique dithiol in trypanosomes, and tryparedoxin peroxidase (TryP), a 2-Cys peroxiredoxin similar to mammalian thioredoxin peroxidase. Enzyme assays revealed that T(SH)2, TryP, and a glutathione peroxidase-like tryparedoxin-dependent peroxidase were inhibited in time- and concentration-dependent manners. The inhibitory activities of various quinol analogues against these targets showed a good correlation with growth inhibition of Trypanosoma brucei. The monothiols glutathione and l-cysteine bound in a 2:1 ratio with PMX464 with Kd values of 6 and 27 μm, respectively, whereas T(SH)2 bound more tightly in a 1:1 ratio with a Kd value of 430 nm. Overexpression of trypanothione synthetase in T. brucei decreased sensitivity to PMX464 indicating that the key metabolite T(SH)2 is a target for quinols. Thus, the quinol pharmacophore represents a novel lead structure for the development of a new drug against African sleeping sickness.
doi:10.1074/jbc.M110.214833
PMCID: PMC3048735  PMID: 21212280
Drug Action; Metabolism; Peroxidase; Thiol; Trypanosome; Quinol; Trypanothione; Tryparedoxin Peroxidase
19.  Target assessment for antiparasitic drug discovery 
Trends in parasitology  2007;23(12):589-595.
Drug discovery is a high-risk, expensive and lengthy process taking at least 12 years and costing upwards of US$500 million per drug to reach the clinic. For neglected diseases, the drug discovery process is driven by medical need and guided by pre-defined target product profiles. Assessment and prioritisation of the most promising targets for entry into screening programmes is crucial for maximising chances of success. Here we describe criteria used in our drug discovery unit for target assessment and introduce the ‘traffic light’ system as a prioritisation and management tool. We hope this brief review will stimulate basic scientists to acquire additional information necessary for drug discovery.
doi:10.1016/j.pt.2007.08.019
PMCID: PMC2979298  PMID: 17962072
20.  N-Myristoyltransferase inhibitors as new leads to treat sleeping sickness 
Nature  2010;464(7289):728-732.
African sleeping sickness or human African trypanosomiasis (HAT), caused by Trypanosoma brucei spp., is responsible for ~30,000 deaths each year. Available treatments for this neglected disease are poor, with unacceptable efficacy and safety profiles, particularly in the late stage of the disease, when the parasite has infected the central nervous system. Here, we report the validation of a molecular target and discovery of associated lead compounds with potential to address this unmet need. Inhibition of this target, T. brucei N-myristoyltransferase (TbNMT), leads to rapid killing of trypanosomes both in vitro and in vivo and cures trypanosomiasis in mice. These high affinity inhibitors bind into the peptide substrate pocket of the enzyme and inhibit protein N-myristoylation in trypanosomes. The compounds identified have very promising pharmaceutical properties and represent an exciting opportunity to develop oral drugs to treat this devastating disease. Our studies validate TbNMT as a promising therapeutic target for HAT.
doi:10.1038/nature08893
PMCID: PMC2917743  PMID: 20360736
21.  Chemical Validation of Trypanothione Synthetase 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2009;284(52):36137-36145.
In the search for new therapeutics for the treatment of human African trypanosomiasis, many potential drug targets in Trypanosoma brucei have been validated by genetic means, but very few have been chemically validated. Trypanothione synthetase (TryS; EC 6.3.1.9; spermidine/glutathionylspermidine:glutathione ligase (ADP-forming)) is one such target. To identify novel inhibitors of T. brucei TryS, we developed an in vitro enzyme assay, which was amenable to high throughput screening. The subsequent screen of a diverse compound library resulted in the identification of three novel series of TryS inhibitors. Further chemical exploration resulted in leads with nanomolar potency, which displayed mixed, uncompetitive, and allosteric-type inhibition with respect to spermidine, ATP, and glutathione, respectively. Representatives of all three series inhibited growth of bloodstream T. brucei in vitro. Exposure to one of our lead compounds (DDD86243; 2 × EC50 for 72 h) decreased intracellular trypanothione levels to <10% of wild type. In addition, there was a corresponding 5-fold increase in the precursor metabolite, glutathione, providing strong evidence that DDD86243 was acting on target to inhibit TryS. This was confirmed with wild-type, TryS single knock-out, and TryS-overexpressing cell lines showing expected changes in potency to DDD86243. Taken together, these data provide initial chemical validation of TryS as a drug target in T. brucei.
doi:10.1074/jbc.M109.045336
PMCID: PMC2794729  PMID: 19828449
22.  Lead Optimization of a Pyrazole Sulfonamide Series of Trypanosoma bruceiN-Myristoyltransferase Inhibitors: Identification and Evaluation of CNS Penetrant Compounds as Potential Treatments for Stage 2 Human African Trypanosomiasis 
Journal of Medicinal Chemistry  2014;57(23):9855-9869.
Trypanosoma bruceiN-myristoyltransferase (TbNMT) is an attractive therapeutic target for the treatment of human African trypanosomiasis (HAT). From previous studies, we identified pyrazole sulfonamide, DDD85646 (1), a potent inhibitor of TbNMT. Although this compound represents an excellent lead, poor central nervous system (CNS) exposure restricts its use to the hemolymphatic form (stage 1) of the disease. With a clear clinical need for new drug treatments for HAT that address both the hemolymphatic and CNS stages of the disease, a chemistry campaign was initiated to address the shortfalls of this series. This paper describes modifications to the pyrazole sulfonamides which markedly improved blood–brain barrier permeability, achieved by reducing polar surface area and capping the sulfonamide. Moreover, replacing the core aromatic with a flexible linker significantly improved selectivity. This led to the discovery of DDD100097 (40) which demonstrated partial efficacy in a stage 2 (CNS) mouse model of HAT.
doi:10.1021/jm500809c
PMCID: PMC4269550  PMID: 25412409
23.  Investigation of Trypanothione Reductase as a Drug Target in Trypanosoma brucei 
Chemmedchem  2009;4(12):2060-2069.
There is an urgent need for new drugs for the treatment of tropical parasitic diseases such as human African trypanosomiasis, which is caused by Trypanosoma brucei. The enzyme trypanothione reductase (TryR) is a potential drug target within these organisms. Herein we report the screening of a 62000 compound library against T. brucei TryR. Further work was undertaken to optimise potency and selectivity of two novel-compound series arising from the enzymatic and whole parasite screens and mammalian cell counterscreens. Both of these series, containing either a quinoline or pyrimidinopyrazine scaffold, yielded low micromolar inhibitors of the enzyme and growth of the parasite. The challenges of inhibiting TryR with druglike molecules is discussed.
doi:10.1002/cmdc.200900262
PMCID: PMC2855869  PMID: 19924760
human African trypanosomiasis; pyrimidopyridazines; quinolines; trypanosoma brucei; trypanothione reductase
24.  Synthesis and Evaluation of 1-(1-(Benzo[b]thiophen-2-yl)cyclohexyl)piperidine (BTCP) Analogues as Inhibitors of Trypanothione Reductase 
Chemmedchem  2009;4(8):1341-1353.
Thirty two analogues of phencyclidine were synthesised and tested as inhibitors of trypanothione reductase (TryR), a potential drug target in trypanosome and leishmania parasites. The lead compound BTCP (1, 1-(1-benzo[b]thiophen-2-yl-cyclohexyl) piperidine) was found to be a competitive inhibitor of the enzyme (Ki=1 μm) and biologically active against bloodstream T. brucei (EC50=10 μm), but with poor selectivity against mammalian MRC5 cells (EC50=29 μm). Analogues with improved enzymatic and biological activity were obtained. The structure–activity relationships of this novel series are discussed.
doi:10.1002/cmdc.200900098
PMCID: PMC2929374  PMID: 19557802
BTCP; inhibitors; medicinal chemistry; trypanosoma brucei; trypanothione reductase
25.  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.
doi:10.1021/jm900414x
PMCID: PMC2966039  PMID: 19527033

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