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1.  Potential of Lichen Secondary Metabolites against Plasmodium Liver Stage Parasites with FAS-II as the Potential Target 
Journal of natural products  2013;76(6):1064-1070.
Chemicals targeting the liver stage (LS) of the malaria parasite are useful for causal prophylaxis of malaria. In this study, four lichen metabolites, evernic acid (1), vulpic acid (2), psoromic acid (3) and (+)-usnic acid (4) were evaluated against LS parasites of Plasmodium berghei. Inhibition of P. falciparum blood stage (BS) parasites was also assessed to determine stage specificity. Compound 4 displayed the highest LS activity and stage specificity (LS IC50 value 2.3 μM, BS IC50 value 47.3 μM). The compounds 1-3 inhibited one or more enzymes (PfFabI, PfFabG and PfFabZ) from the plasmodial fatty acid biosynthesis (FAS-II) pathway, a potential drug target for LS activity. To determine species specificity and to clarify the mechanism of reported antibacterial effects, 1-4 were also evaluated against FabI homologues and whole cells of various pathogens (S. aureus, E. coli, M. tuberculosis). Molecular modelling studies suggest that lichen acids act indirectly via binding to allosteric sites on the protein surface of the FAS-II enzymes. Potential toxicity of compounds was assessed in human hepatocyte and cancer cells (in vitro) as well as in a zebrafish model (in vivo). This study indicates the therapeutic and prophylactic potential of lichen metabolites as antibacterial and antiplasmodial agents.
PMCID: PMC4119598  PMID: 23806111
2.  Evaluation of the In Vitro Antiplasmodial, Antileishmanial, and Antitrypanosomal Activity of Medicinal Plants Used in Saudi and Yemeni Traditional Medicine 
The antiplasmodial, antileishmanial, and antitrypanosomal activity of twenty-five medicinal plants distributed in Saudi Arabia and Yemen was evaluated. The plants were extracted with methanol and screened in vitro against erythrocytic schizonts of Plasmodium falciparum, intracellular amastigotes of Leishmania infantum and Trypanosoma cruzi, and free trypomastigotes of T. brucei. To assess selectivity, cytotoxicity was determined on MRC-5 cells. Criteria for activity were an IC50 < 10 μg/mL and high selectivity (SI). Seven plants showed interesting antiprotozoal activity in one or more models. Extracts of Caralluma penicillata and Acalypha ciliata showed fairly good activity against P. falciparum with IC50 of 6.7 and 10.8 μg/mL and adequate selectivity (SI > 9.6 and >5.9). Interesting activity against L. infantum was obtained with Verbascum bottae (IC50 of 3.2 μg/mL, SI 10.2) and Solanum glabratum (IC50 8.1 μg/mL, SI 3.4). The extracts of C. penicillata, Leucas virgata, Loranthus regularis, and V. bottae exhibited moderate activity against T. brucei (IC50 8.5, 8.1, 8.3, and 2.3 μg/mL; SI > 7.6, 7.7, 4.3, and >14.1). These results partly support the traditional use of some of the selected medicinal plants and warrant further investigations into the putative active constituents.
PMCID: PMC4055400  PMID: 24963330
3.  Selective Inhibitors of Fibroblast Activation Protein (FAP) with a (4-Quinolinoyl)-glycyl-2-cyanopyrrolidine Scaffold 
ACS Medicinal Chemistry Letters  2013;4(5):491-496.
Fibroblast activation protein (FAP) is a serine protease that is generally accepted to play an important role in tumor growth and other diseases involving tissue remodeling. Currently there are no FAP inhibitors with reported selectivity toward both the closely related dipeptidyl peptidases (DPPs) and prolyl oligopeptidase (PREP). We present the discovery of a new class of FAP inhibitors with a N-(4-quinolinoyl)-Gly-(2-cyanopyrrolidine) scaffold. We have explored the effects of substituting the quinoline ring and varying the position of its sp2 hybridized nitrogen atom. The most promising inhibitors combined low nanomolar FAP inhibition and high selectivity indices (>103) with respect to both the DPPs and PREP. Preliminary experiments on a representative inhibitor demonstrate that plasma stability, kinetic solubility, and log D of this class of compounds can be expected to be satisfactory.
PMCID: PMC4027141  PMID: 24900696
Fibroblast activation protein (FAP); dipeptidyl peptidase IV (DPPIV); prolyl oligopeptidase (PREP); seprase
4.  In Vitro Antiprotozoal Activity of Abietane Diterpenoids Isolated from Plectranthus barbatus Andr. 
Chromatographic separation of the n-hexane extract of the aerial part of Plectranthus barbatus led to the isolation of five abietane-type diterpenes: dehydroabietane (1); 5,6-didehydro-7-hydroxy-taxodone (2); taxodione (3); 20-deoxocarnosol (4) and 6α,11,12,-trihydroxy-7β,20-epoxy-8,11,13-abietatriene (5). The structures were determined using spectroscopic methods including one- and two-dimensional NMR methods. Compounds (1)–(3) and (5) are isolated here for the first time from the genus Plectranthus. The isolated abietane-type diterpenes tested in vitro for their antiprotozoal activity against erythrocytic schizonts of Plasmodium falciparum, intracellular amastigotes of Leishmania infantum and Trypanosoma cruzi and free trypomastigotes of T. brucei. Cytotoxicity was determined against fibroblast cell line MRC-5. Compound (2) 5,6-didehydro-7-hydroxy-taxodone showed remarkable activity with acceptable selectivity against P. falciparum (IC50 9.2 μM, SI 10.4) and T. brucei (IC50 1.9 μM, SI 50.5). Compounds (3)–(5) exhibited non-specific antiprotozoal activity due to high cytotoxicity. Compound (1) dehydroabietane showed no antiprotozoal potential.
PMCID: PMC4057736  PMID: 24823881
Plectranthus barbatus; antiprotozoal; abietane-type diterpenoids; Plasmodium; Leishmania; Trypanosoma; cytotoxicity
5.  Efficient Electrochemical N-Alkylation of N-Boc-Protected 4-Aminopyridines: Towards New Biologically Active Compounds 
ISRN organic chemistry  2014;2014:621592.
The use of electrogenerated acetonitrile anion allows the alkylation of N-Boc-4-aminopyridine in very high yields, under mild conditions and without by-products. The high reactivity of this base is due to its large tetraethylammonium counterion, which leaves the acetonitrile anion “naked.” The deprotection of the obtained compounds led to high yields in N-alkylated 4-aminopyridines. Nonsymmetrically dialkylated 4-aminopyridines were obtained by subsequent reaction of monoalkylated ones with t-BuOK and alkyl halides, while symmetrically dialkylated 4-aminopyridines were obtained by direct reaction of 4-aminopyridine with an excess of t-BuOK and alkyl halides. Some mono- and dialkyl-4-aminopyridines were selected to evaluate antifungal and antiprotozoal activity; the dialkylated 4-aminopyridines 3ac, 3ae and 3ff showed antifungal towards Cryptococcus neoformans; whereas 3cc, 3ee and 3ff showed antiprotozoal activity towards Leishmania infantum and Plasmodium falciparum.
PMCID: PMC4041018  PMID: 24955255
6.  A novel marker, ARM58, confers antimony resistance to Leishmania spp.☆ 
Graphical abstract
•Functional cloning identifies a Leishmania-specific 58 kD antimony resistance marker, ARM58.•ARM58 overexpression confers antimony resistance.•A neighbouring, structurally related gene lacks antimony resistance function.•ARM58 comprises 4 related domains of unknown function, classified as DUF1935.•Cosmid-based functional cloning is feasible in L. braziliensis in spite of RNAi.
Protozoa of the Leishmania genus cause a variety of disease forms that rank at the top of the list of neglected tropical diseases. Anti-leishmanial drugs based on pentavalent antimony have been the mainstay of therapy for over 60 years and resistance against them is increasingly encountered in the field. The biochemical basis for this is poorly understood and likely diverse. No stringent correlation between genetic markers and antimony resistance has so far been shown, prompting us to use a functional cloning approach to identify markers of resistance. Using gene libraries derived from drug-resistant and drug-sensitive Leishmania braziliensis clinical isolates in a functional cloning strategy, we repeatedly selected one gene locus located on chromosome 20 whose amplification confers increased antimony (III) resistance in vitro to an otherwise sensitive L. braziliensis clone. The gene responsible for the effect encodes a previously hypothetical protein that we dubbed LbrARM58. It comprises four repeats of a domain of unknown function, DUF1935, one of them harbouring a potential trans-membrane domain. The gene is so far unique to the Leishmania genus, while a structurally related gene without antimony resistance functionality is also found in Trypanosoma spp. Overexpression of LbrARM58 also confers antimony resistance to promastigotes and intracellular amastigotes of the related species Leishmania infantum, indicating a conserved function in Old World and New World Leishmania species. Our results also show that in spite of their RNAi system, L. braziliensis promastigotes can serve as acceptor cells for episomally propagated cosmid libraries, at least for the initial stages of functional cloning efforts.
PMCID: PMC3940081  PMID: 24596667
Leishmania braziliensis; Antimony; Resistance
7.  Genetic Markers for SSG Resistance in Leishmania donovani and SSG Treatment Failure in Visceral Leishmaniasis Patients of the Indian Subcontinent 
The Journal of Infectious Diseases  2012;206(5):752-755.
The current standard to assess pentavalent antimonial (SSG) susceptibility of Leishmania is a laborious in vitro assay of which the result has little clinical value because SSG-resistant parasites are also found in SSG-cured patients. Candidate genetic markers for clinically relevant SSG-resistant parasites identified by full genome sequencing were here validated on a larger set of clinical strains. We show that 3 genomic locations suffice to specifically detect the SSG-resistant parasites found only in patients experiencing SSG treatment failure. This finding allows the development of rapid assays to monitor the emergence and spread of clinically relevant SSG-resistant Leishmania parasites.
PMCID: PMC4125624  PMID: 22753945
8.  Transcript and Protein Analysis Reveals Better Survival Skills of Monocyte-Derived Dendritic Cells Compared to Monocytes during Oxidative Stress 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e43357.
Dendritic cells (DCs), professional antigen-presenting cells with the unique ability to initiate primary T-cell responses, are present in atherosclerotic lesions where they are exposed to oxidative stress that generates cytotoxic reactive oxygen species (ROS). A large body of evidence indicates that cell death is a major modulating factor of atherogenesis. We examined antioxidant defence systems of human monocyte-derived (mo)DCs and monocytes in response to oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress was induced by addition of tertiary-butylhydroperoxide (tert-BHP, 30 min). Cellular responses were evaluated using flow cytometry and confocal live cell imaging (both using 5-(and-6)-chloromethyl-2,7-dichlorodihydrofluorescein diacetate, CM-H2DCFDA). Viability was assessed by the neutral red assay. Total RNA was extracted for a PCR profiler array. Five genes were selected for confirmation by Taqman gene expression assays, and by immunoblotting or immunohistochemistry for protein levels.
Tert-BHP increased CM-H2DCFDA fluorescence and caused cell death. Interestingly, all processes occurred more slowly in moDCs than in monocytes. The mRNA profiler array showed more than 2-fold differential expression of 32 oxidative stress–related genes in unstimulated moDCs, including peroxiredoxin-2 (PRDX2), an enzyme reducing hydrogen peroxide and lipid peroxides. PRDX2 upregulation was confirmed by Taqman assays, immunoblotting and immunohistochemistry. Silencing PRDX2 in moDCs by means of siRNA significantly increased CM-DCF fluorescence and cell death upon tert-BHP-stimulation.
Our results indicate that moDCs exhibit higher intracellular antioxidant capacities, making them better equipped to resist oxidative stress than monocytes. Upregulation of PRDX2 is involved in the neutralization of ROS in moDCs. Taken together, this points to better survival skills of DCs in oxidative stress environments, such as atherosclerotic plaques.
PMCID: PMC3419731  PMID: 22916248
9.  Experimental Induction of Paromomycin Resistance in Antimony-Resistant Strains of L. donovani: Outcome Dependent on In Vitro Selection Protocol 
Paromomycin (PMM) has recently been introduced for treatment of visceral leishmaniasis in India. Although no clinical resistance has yet been reported, proactive vigilance should be warranted. The present in vitro study compared the outcome and stability of experimental PMM-resistance induction on promastigotes and intracellular amastigotes. Cloned antimony-resistant L. donovani field isolates from India and Nepal were exposed to stepwise increasing concentrations of PMM (up to 500 µM), either as promastigotes or intracellular amastigotes. One resulting resistant strain was cloned and checked for stability of resistance by drug-free in vitro passage as promastigotes for 20 weeks or a single in vivo passage in the golden hamster. Resistance selection in promastigotes took about 25 weeks to reach the maximal 97 µM inclusion level that did not affect normal growth. Comparison of the IC50 values between the parent and the selected strains revealed a 9 to 11-fold resistance for the Indian and 3 to 5-fold for the Nepalese strains whereby the resistant phenotype was also maintained at the level of the amastigote. Applying PMM pressure to intracellular amastigotes produced resistance after just two selection cycles (IC50 = 199 µM) compared to the parent strain (IC50 = 45 µM). In the amastigote-induced strains/clones, lower PMM susceptibilities were seen only in amastigotes and not at all in promastigotes. This resistance phenotype remained stable after serial in vitro passage as promastigote for 20 weeks and after a single in vivo passage in the hamster. This study clearly demonstrates that a different PMM-resistance phenotype is obtained whether drug selection is applied to promastigotes or intracellular amastigotes. These findings may have important relevance to resistance mechanism investigations and the likelihood of resistance development and detection in the field.
Author Summary
Leishmaniasis is caused by protozoan parasites of the genus Leishmania and is transmitted by inoculation of infective promastigotes by the female sand fly. In the mammalian host, amastigotes live inside macrophage cells which may lead to various clinical symptoms. First-line treatment relies mainly on antimonials and miltefosine; however, drug resistance is a growing problem. The antibiotic paromomycin (PMM) has recently been added as treatment option, but it is now essential to proactively assess the likelihood of resistance development to safeguard its long term effectiveness. Since ‘resistant’ patient isolates are not yet available, we artificially selected for PMM resistance using two different in vitro protocols with drug pressure on either the extracellular promastigote or on the intracellular amastigote stage. Resistance in promastigotes was obtained after about 25 weeks and persisted in the intracellular amastigote. High levels of resistance were obtained within two selection cycles on amastigotes, but with the unexpected observation that the promastigotes remained fully susceptible. In addition, the resistance proved to be stable. We could clearly demonstrate that a different PMM-resistance is obtained dependent on the ‘stage-selection’ protocol. These findings have important relevance to resistance mechanism investigations and the likelihood of resistance development and detection in the field.
PMCID: PMC3362622  PMID: 22666513
10.  In vitro antiplasmodial, antileishmanial and antitrypanosomal activities of selected medicinal plants used in the traditional Arabian Peninsular region 
Worldwide particularly in developing countries, a large proportion of the population is at risk for tropical parasitic diseases. Several medicinal plants are still used traditionally against protozoal infections in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. Thus the present study investigated the in vitro antiprotozoal activity of twenty-five plants collected from the Arabian Peninsula.
Plant materials were extracted with methanol and screened in vitro against erythrocytic schizonts of Plasmodium falciparum, intracellular amastigotes of Leishmania infantum and Trypanosoma cruzi and free trypomastigotes of T. brucei. Cytotoxic activity was determined against MRC-5 cells to assess selectivity. The criterion for activity was an IC50 < 10 μg/ml (<5 μg/ml for T. brucei) and selectivity index of >4.
Antiplasmodial activity was found in the extracts of Chrozophora oblongifolia, Ficus ingens, Lavandula dentata and Plectranthus barbatus. Amastigotes of T. cruzi were affected by Grewia erythraea, L. dentata, Tagetes minuta and Vernonia leopoldii. Activity against T. brucei was obtained in G. erythraea, L. dentata, P. barbatus and T. minuta. No relevant activity was found against L. infantum. High levels of cytotoxicity (MRC-5 IC50 < 10 μg/ml) and hence non-specific activities were noted in Cupressus sempervirens, Kanahia laniflora and Kniphofia sumarae.
The results endorse that medicinal plants can be promising sources of natural products with antiprotozoal activity potential. The results support to some extent the traditional uses of some plants for the treatment of parasitic protozoal diseases.
PMCID: PMC3493369  PMID: 22520595
11.  α-Ketoheterocycles as inhibitors of Leishmania mexicana cysteine protease CPB 
ChemMedChem  2010;5(10):1734-1748.
Cysteine proteases of the papain superfamily are present in nearly all eukaryotes and also play pivotal roles in the biology of parasites. Inhibition of cysteine proteases is emerging as an important strategy to combat parasitic diseases such as sleeping sickness, Chagas’ disease and leishmaniasis. Inspired by the in vivo antiparasitic activity of the vinyl sulfone based cysteine protease inhibitors (CPIs), a series of α-ketoheterocycles 1-15 has been developed as reversible inhibitors of a recombinant L. mexicana cysteine protease CPB2.8. The isoxazoles 1-3 and especially the oxadiazole 15 are potent reversible inhibitors of CPB2.8, however, in vitro whole-organism screening against a panel of protozoan parasites did not fully correlate with the observed inhibition of the cysteine protease.
PMCID: PMC3245848  PMID: 20799311
cysteine proteases; inhibitors; ketoheterocycle; parasite CPB; Trypanosoma
12.  Integrated Dataset of Screening Hits against Multiple Neglected Disease Pathogens 
New chemical entities are desperately needed that overcome the limitations of existing drugs for neglected diseases. Screening a diverse library of 10,000 drug-like compounds against 7 neglected disease pathogens resulted in an integrated dataset of 744 hits. We discuss the prioritization of these hits for each pathogen and the strong correlation observed between compounds active against more than two pathogens and mammalian cell toxicity. Our work suggests that the efficiency of early drug discovery for neglected diseases can be enhanced through a collaborative, multi-pathogen approach.
Author Summary
The search for new drugs for human neglected diseases accelerated in the past decade, based on the recognition that addressing these infections was necessary for global poverty reduction. The expansion of discovery and development programmes was supported by donor investment, increasing participation of the industry and the creation of Product Development Partnership (PDP) enterprises. Despite these efforts, major discovery gaps remain as, apart from some repurposed drugs and a few new molecules for malaria, no new candidate has been recently transitioned from discovery into development for the major Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs). In this publication, we present a collaborative network model for drug discovery based on coordinated North-South partnerships. This network carried out low-to-medium throughput whole-organism screening assays against seven NTDs (malaria, leishmaniasis, human African trypanosomiasis [HAT], Chagas' disease, schistosomiasis, onchocerciasis and lymphatic filariasis) together with an early assessment of compound toxicity in mammalian cells. We describe a screening campaign of 10,000 molecules, its outcome and the implications of this strategy for enhancing the efficiency and productivity of drug discovery for NTDs.
PMCID: PMC3243694  PMID: 22247786
13.  Quorum Sensing Inhibitors Increase the Susceptibility of Bacterial Biofilms to Antibiotics In Vitro and In Vivo▿† 
Although the exact role of quorum sensing (QS) in various stages of biofilm formation, maturation, and dispersal and in biofilm resistance is not entirely clear, the use of QS inhibitors (QSI) has been proposed as a potential antibiofilm strategy. We have investigated whether QSI enhance the susceptibility of bacterial biofilms to treatment with conventional antimicrobial agents. The QSI used in our study target the acyl-homoserine lactone-based QS system present in Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Burkholderia cepacia complex organisms (baicalin hydrate, cinnamaldehyde) or the peptide-based system present in Staphylococcus aureus (hamamelitannin). The effect of tobramycin (P. aeruginosa, B. cepacia complex) and clindamycin or vancomycin (S. aureus), alone or in combination with QSI, was evaluated in various in vitro and in vivo biofilm model systems, including two invertebrate models and one mouse pulmonary infection model. In vitro the combined use of an antibiotic and a QSI generally resulted in increased killing compared to killing by an antibiotic alone, although reductions were strain and model dependent. A significantly higher fraction of infected Galleria mellonella larvae and Caenorhabditis elegans survived infection following combined treatment, compared to treatment with an antibiotic alone. Finally, the combined use of tobramycin and baicalin hydrate reduced the microbial load in the lungs of BALB/c mice infected with Burkholderia cenocepacia more than tobramycin treatment alone. Our data suggest that QSI may increase the success of antibiotic treatment by increasing the susceptibility of bacterial biofilms and/or by increasing host survival following infection.
PMCID: PMC3101409  PMID: 21422204
14.  Antimonial Resistance in Leishmania donovani Is Associated with Increased In Vivo Parasite Burden 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(8):e23120.
Leishmania donovani is an intracellular protozoan parasite that causes visceral leishmaniasis (VL). Antimonials (SSG) have long been the first-line treatment against VL, but have now been replaced by miltefosine (MIL) in the Indian subcontinent due to the emergence of SSG-resistance. Our previous study hypothesised that SSG-resistant L. donovani might have increased in vivo survival skills which could affect the efficacy of other treatments such as MIL. The present study attempts to validate these hypotheses. Fourteen strains derived from Nepalese clinical isolates with documented SSG-susceptibility were infected in BALB/c mice to study their survival capacity in drug free conditions (non-treated mice) and in MIL-treated mice. SSG-resistant parasites caused a significant higher in vivo parasite load compared to SSG-sensitive parasites. However, this did not seem to affect the strains' response to MIL-treatment since parasites from both phenotypes responded equally well to in vivo MIL exposure. We conclude that there is a positive association between SSG-resistance and in vivo survival skills in our sample of L. donovani strains which could suggest a higher virulence of SSG-R strains compared to SSG-S strains. These greater in vivo survival skills of SSG-R parasites do not seem to directly affect their susceptibility to MIL. However, it cannot be excluded that repeated MIL exposure will elicit different adaptations in these SSG-R parasites with superior survival skills compared to the SSG-S parasites. Our results therefore highlight the need to closely monitor drug efficacy in the field, especially in the context of the Kala-azar elimination programme ongoing in the Indian subcontinent.
PMCID: PMC3148249  PMID: 21829701
15.  Comparative Gene Expression Analysis throughout the Life Cycle of Leishmania braziliensis: Diversity of Expression Profiles among Clinical Isolates 
Most of the Leishmania genome is reported to be constitutively expressed during the life cycle of the parasite, with a few regulated genes. Inter-species comparative transcriptomics evidenced a low number of species-specific differences related to differentially distributed genes or the differential regulation of conserved genes. It is of uppermost importance to ensure that the observed differences are indeed species-specific and not simply specific of the strains selected for representing the species. The relevance of this concern is illustrated by current study.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We selected 5 clinical isolates of L. braziliensis characterized by their diversity of clinical and in vitro phenotypes. Real-time quantitative PCR was performed on promastigote and amastigote life stages to assess gene expression profiles at seven time points covering the whole life cycle. We tested 12 genes encoding proteins with roles in transport, thiol-based redox metabolism, cellular reduction, RNA poly(A)-tail metabolism, cytoskeleton function and ribosomal function. The general trend of expression profiles showed that regulation of gene expression essentially occurs around the stationary phase of promastigotes. However, the genes involved in this phenomenon appeared to vary significantly among the isolates considered.
Our results clearly illustrate the unique character of each isolate in terms of gene expression dynamics. Results obtained on an individual strain are not necessarily representative of a given species. Therefore, extreme care should be taken when comparing the profiles of different species and extrapolating functional differences between them.
Author Summary
Leishmania is a group of parasites (Protozoa, Trypanosomatidae) responsible for a wide spectrum of clinical forms. Among the factors explaining this phenotypic polymorphism, parasite features are important contributors. One approach to identify them consists in characterizing the gene expression profiles throughout the life cycle. In a recent study, the transcriptome of 3 Leishmania species was compared and this revealed species-specific differences, albeit in a low number. A key issue, however, is to ensure that the observed differences are indeed species-specific and not specific of the strains selected for representing the species. In order to illustrate the relevance of this concern, we analyzed here the gene expression profiles of 5 clinical isolates of L. braziliensis at seven time points of the life cycle. Our results clearly illustrate the unique character of each isolate in terms of gene expression dynamics: one Leishmania strain is not necessarily representative of a given species.
PMCID: PMC3091834  PMID: 21572980
16.  In Vitro Profiling of Pramiconazole and In Vivo Evaluation in Microsporum canis Dermatitis and Candida albicans Vaginitis Laboratory Models▿  
Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy  2010;54(11):4927-4929.
The triazole antifungal pramiconazole (Stiefel, a GSK company) was compared with itraconazole, miconazole, and terbinafine in vitro and in vivo. Potent in vitro activities against Candida spp. (50% inhibitory concentration [IC50], 0.04 to 1.83 μM) and Microsporum and Trichophyton spp. (IC50, 0.15 to 1.34 μM) were obtained but not, however, against other filamentous molds and zygomycetes. In the M. canis guinea pig model and C. albicans vulvovaginitis rat model, pramiconazole was superior to the reference compounds after oral and topical administration.
PMCID: PMC2976107  PMID: 20805398
17.  Trypanosoma brucei Glycogen Synthase Kinase-3, A Target for Anti-Trypanosomal Drug Development: A Public-Private Partnership to Identify Novel Leads 
Trypanosoma brucei, the causative agent of Human African Trypanosomiasis (HAT), expresses two proteins with homology to human glycogen synthase kinase 3β (HsGSK-3) designated TbruGSK-3 short and TbruGSK-3 long. TbruGSK-3 short has previously been validated as a potential drug target and since this enzyme has also been pursued as a human drug target, a large number of inhibitors are available for screening against the parasite enzyme. A collaborative industrial/academic partnership facilitated by the World Health Organisation Tropical Diseases Research division (WHO TDR) was initiated to stimulate research aimed at identifying new drugs for treating HAT.
Methodology/Principal Findings
A subset of over 16,000 inhibitors of HsGSK-3 β from the Pfizer compound collection was screened against the shorter of two orthologues of TbruGSK-3. The resulting active compounds were tested for selectivity versus HsGSK-3β and a panel of human kinases, as well as in vitro anti-trypanosomal activity. Structural analysis of the human and trypanosomal enzymes was also performed.
We identified potent and selective compounds representing potential attractive starting points for a drug discovery program. Structural analysis of the human and trypanosomal enzymes also revealed hypotheses for further improving selectivity of the compounds.
Author Summary
Over 60 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are at risk of infection with the parasite Trypanosoma brucei which causes Human African Trypanosomiasis (HAT), also known as sleeping sickness. The disease results in systemic and neurological disability to its victims. At present, only four drugs are available for treatment of HAT. However, these drugs are expensive, limited in efficacy and are severely toxic, hence the need to develop new therapies. Previously, the short TbruGSK-3 short has been validated as a potential target for developing new drugs against HAT. Because this enzyme has also been pursued as a drug target for other diseases, several inhibitors are available for screening against the parasite enzyme. Here we present the results of screening over 16,000 inhibitors of human GSK-3β (HsGSK-3) from the Pfizer compound collection against TbruGSK-3 short. The resulting active compounds were tested for selectivity versus HsGSK-3β and a panel of human kinases, as well as their ability to inhibit proliferation of the parasite in vitro. We have identified attractive compounds that now form potential starting points for drug discovery against HAT. This is an example of how a tripartite partnership involving pharmaceutical industries, academic institutions and non-government organisations such as WHO TDR, can stimulate research for neglected diseases.
PMCID: PMC3071371  PMID: 21483717
18.  Structure-Activity Relationship of Cinnamaldehyde Analogs as Inhibitors of AI-2 Based Quorum Sensing and Their Effect on Virulence of Vibrio spp 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(1):e16084.
Many bacteria, including Vibrio spp., regulate virulence gene expression in a cell-density dependent way through a communication process termed quorum sensing (QS). Hence, interfering with QS could be a valuable novel antipathogenic strategy. Cinnamaldehyde has previously been shown to inhibit QS-regulated virulence by decreasing the DNA-binding ability of the QS response regulator LuxR. However, little is known about the structure-activity relationship of cinnamaldehyde analogs.
Methodology/Principal Findings
By evaluating the QS inhibitory activity of a series of cinnamaldehyde analogs, structural elements critical for autoinducer-2 QS inhibition were identified. These include an α,β unsaturated acyl group capable of reacting as Michael acceptor connected to a hydrophobic moiety and a partially negative charge. The most active cinnamaldehyde analogs were found to affect the starvation response, biofilm formation, pigment production and protease production in Vibrio spp in vitro, while exhibiting low cytotoxicity. In addition, these compounds significantly increased the survival of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans infected with Vibrio anguillarum, Vibrio harveyi and Vibrio vulnificus.
Several new and more active cinnamaldehyde analogs were discovered and they were shown to affect Vibrio spp. virulence factor production in vitro and in vivo. Although ligands for LuxR have not been identified so far, the nature of different cinnamaldehyde analogs and their effect on the DNA binding ability of LuxR suggest that these compounds act as LuxR-ligands.
PMCID: PMC3020944  PMID: 21249192
19.  Evaluation of Nucleoside Hydrolase Inhibitors for Treatment of African Trypanosomiasis ▿ †  
In this paper, we present the biochemical and biological evaluation of N-arylmethyl-substituted iminoribitol derivatives as potential chemotherapeutic agents against trypanosomiasis. Previously, a library of 52 compounds was designed and synthesized as potent and selective inhibitors of Trypanosoma vivax inosine-adenosine-guanosine nucleoside hydrolase (IAG-NH). However, when the compounds were tested against bloodstream-form Trypanosoma brucei brucei, only one inhibitor, N-(9-deaza-adenin-9-yl)methyl-1,4-dideoxy-1,4-imino-d-ribitol (UAMC-00363), displayed significant activity (mean 50% inhibitory concentration [IC50] ± standard error, 0.49 ± 0.31 μM). Validation in an in vivo model of African trypanosomiasis showed promising results for this compound. Several experiments were performed to investigate why only UAMC-00363 showed antiparasitic activity. First, the compound library was screened against T. b. brucei IAG-NH and inosine-guanosine nucleoside hydrolase (IG-NH) to confirm the previously demonstrated inhibitory effects of the compounds on T. vivax IAG-NH. Second, to verify the uptake of these compounds by T. b. brucei, their affinities for the nucleoside P1 and nucleoside/nucleobase P2 transporters of T. b. brucei were tested. Only UAMC-00363 displayed significant affinity for the P2 transporter. It was also shown that UAMC-00363 is concentrated in the cell via at least one additional transporter, since P2 knockout mutants of T. b. brucei displayed no resistance to the compound. Consequently, no cross-resistance to the diamidine or the melaminophenyl arsenical classes of trypanocides is expected. Third, three enzymes of the purine salvage pathway of procyclic T. b. brucei (IAG-NH, IG-NH, and methylthioadenosine phosphorylase [MTAP]) were investigated using RNA interference. The findings from all these studies showed that it is probably not sufficient to target only the nucleoside hydrolase activity to block the purine salvage pathway of T. b. brucei and that, therefore, it is possible that UAMC-00363 acts on an additional target.
PMCID: PMC2863631  PMID: 20194690
20.  Linking In Vitro and In Vivo Survival of Clinical Leishmania donovani Strains 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(8):e12211.
Leishmania donovani is an intracellular protozoan parasite that causes a lethal systemic disease, visceral leishmaniasis (VL), and is transmitted between mammalian hosts by phlebotomine sandflies. Leishmania expertly survives in these ‘hostile’ environments with a unique redox system protecting against oxidative damage, and host manipulation skills suppressing oxidative outbursts of the mammalian host. Treating patients imposes an additional stress on the parasite and sodium stibogluconate (SSG) was used for over 70 years in the Indian subcontinent.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We evaluated whether the survival capacity of clinical L. donovani isolates varies significantly at different stages of their life cycle by comparing proliferation, oxidative stress tolerance and infection capacity of 3 Nepalese L. donovani strains in several in vitro and in vivo models. In general, the two strains that were resistant to SSG, a stress encountered in patients, attained stationary phase at a higher parasite density, contained a higher amount of metacyclic parasites and had a greater capacity to cause in vivo infection in mice compared to the SSG-sensitive strain.
The 2 SSG-resistant strains had superior survival skills as promastigotes and as amastigotes compared to the SSG-sensitive strain. These results could indicate that Leishmania parasites adapting successfully to antimonial drug pressure acquire an overall increased fitness, which stands in contrast to what is found for other organisms, where drug resistance is usually linked to a fitness cost. Further validation experiments are under way to verify this hypothesis.
PMCID: PMC2923181  PMID: 20808916
21.  In Vitro Sensitivity Testing of Leishmania Clinical Field Isolates: Preconditioning of Promastigotes Enhances Infectivity for Macrophage Host Cells▿  
Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy  2009;53(12):5197-5203.
Diagnostic material from patients with leishmaniasis is generally available as promastigotes, and proper testing for susceptibility to first-line drugs by the intracellular amastigote assay is frequently hampered by the poor infectivity of the promastigotes for the macrophage host cell. Several conditions for optimization of the in vitro metacyclogenesis and cell infectivity of Leishmania donovani, L. guyanensis, and L. braziliensis field strains obtained from patients receiving standard antimony medication were investigated. Triggering log-phase promastigotes to become amastigote-like by increasing the temperature or acidifying the culture medium was not successful. Adequate metacyclogenesis and the highest levels of macrophage infection were obtained after 5-day-old late-log-phase promastigote cultures were preconditioned at 25°C to pH 5.4 for 24 h in Schneider's medium prior to infection. The susceptibility assay with primary peritoneal mouse macrophages included pentavalent antimony (SbV; sodium stibogluconate), trivalent antimony (SbIII; potassium antimonyl tartrate), miltefosine, and the experimental drug PX-6518. All strains were sensitive to miltefosine (50% inhibitory concentration [IC50] < 10 μM) and PX-6518 (IC50 < 2 μg/ml) but showed distinct susceptibility to SbV and/or SbIII, depending on whether they were derived from cured, relapse, or nonresponder patients. Within the available set of Leishmania species and strains, simultaneous SbV-SbIII resistance was clearly associated with treatment failure; however, a larger set of isolates is still needed to judge the predictive value of SbV-SbIII susceptibility profiling on treatment outcome. In conclusion, the proposed conditioning protocol further contributes toward a more standardized laboratory model for evaluation of the drug sensitivities of field isolates.
PMCID: PMC2786351  PMID: 19752271
22.  Design and evaluation of Trypanosoma brucei metacaspase inhibitors 
Metacaspase (MCA) is an important enzyme in Trypanosoma brucei, absent from humans and differing significantly from the orthologous human caspases. Therefore MCA constitutes a new attractive drug target for antiparasitic chemotherapeutics, which needs further characterization to support the discovery of innovative drug candidates. A first series of inhibitors has been prepared on the basis of known substrate specificity and the predicted catalytic mechanism of the enzyme. In this Letter we present the first inhibitors of TbMCA2 with low micromolar enzymatic and antiparasitic activity in vitro combined with low cytotoxicity.
PMCID: PMC2845880  PMID: 20167486
23.  In Vitro Susceptibilities of Leishmania donovani Promastigote and Amastigote Stages to Antileishmanial Reference Drugs: Practical Relevance of Stage-Specific Differences▿  
The in vitro susceptibilities of the reference strain Leishmania donovani MHOM/ET/67/L82 to sodium stibogluconate, amphotericin B, miltefosine, and the experimental compound PX-6518 were determined for extracellular log-phase promastigotes, established axenic amastigotes, fresh spleen-derived amastigotes, and intracellular amastigotes in primary mouse peritoneal macrophages. Susceptibility to amphotericin B did not differ across the various axenic models (50% inhibitory concentrations [IC50], 0.6 to 0.7 μM), and amphotericin B showed slightly higher potency against intracellular amastigotes (IC50, 0.1 to 0.4 μM). A similar trend was observed for miltefosine, with comparable efficacies against the extracellular (IC50, 0.4 to 3.8 μM) and intracellular (IC50, 0.9 to 4.3 μM) stages. Sodium stibogluconate, used either as Pentostam or as a crystalline substance, was inactive against all axenic stages (IC50, >64 μg SbV/ml) but showed good efficacy against intracellular amastigotes (IC50, 22 to 28 μg SbV/ml); the crystalline substance was about two to three times more potent (IC50, 9 to 11 μg SbV/ml). The activity profile of PX-6518 was comparable to that of sodium stibogluconate, but at a much higher potency (IC50, 0.1 μg/ml). In conclusion, the differential susceptibility determines which in vitro models are appropriate for either drug screening or resistance monitoring of clinical field isolates. Despite the more complex and labor-intensive protocol, the current results support the intracellular amastigote model as the gold standard for in vitro Leishmania drug discovery research and for evaluation of the resistance of field strains, since it also includes host cell-mediated effects. Axenic systems can be recommended only for compounds for which no cellular mechanisms are involved, for example, amphotericin B and miltefosine.
PMCID: PMC2737839  PMID: 19546361
24.  Advancing Drug Innovation for Neglected Diseases—Criteria for Lead Progression 
The current drug R&D pipeline for most neglected diseases remains weak, and unlikely to support registration of novel drug classes that meet desired target product profiles in the short term. This calls for sustained investment as well as greater emphasis in the risky upstream drug discovery. Access to technologies, resources, and strong management as well as clear compound progression criteria are factors in the successful implementation of any collaborative drug discovery effort. We discuss how some of these factors have impacted drug discovery for tropical diseases within the past four decades, and highlight new opportunities and challenges through the virtual North–South drug discovery network as well as the rationale for greater participation of institutions in developing countries in product innovation. A set of criteria designed to facilitate compound progression from screening hits to drug candidate selection is presented to guide ongoing efforts.
PMCID: PMC2727960  PMID: 19707561
25.  Comparative Activities of the Triterpene Saponin Maesabalide III and Liposomal Amphotericin B (AmBisome) against Leishmania donovani in Hamsters 
Maesabalide III (MB-III), an oleane triterpene saponin isolated from the Vietnamese plant Maesa balansae, is a new antileishmanial lead compound whose activity against Leishmania donovani (MHOM/ET/67/L82) in groups of five golden hamsters was evaluated after administration of a single subcutaneous dose on either day 1 (prophylactic treatment) or day 28 (curative treatment) after infection. Liposomal amphotericin B (AmBisome), administered intravenously at 5 mg/kg of body weight, was used as the reference drug. Amastigote burdens in liver, spleen, and bone marrow were determined either 7 days (early effects) or 56 days (late effects) after treatment. Prophylactic administration of MB-III at 0.2 mg/kg reduced liver amastigote burdens by 99.8 and 83% within 7 and 56 days after treatment, respectively. In the latter group, however, all animals became ill and some died. Both MB-III at 0.8 mg/kg and liposomal amphotericin B were 100% effective against liver stages, but clearance from the spleen and bone marrow was not achieved. Curative administration of MB-III at 0.2 and 0.4 mg/kg was not protective, as no survivors were left at the termination of the experiment on day 84. Despite the high level of reduction of the liver amastigote burden after treatment with MB-III at 0.8 mg/kg (94.2%) or liposomal amphotericin B (99.4%), clinical protection could not be obtained in either group, with two deaths occurring and the residual liver burdens persisting. It is concluded that administration of a single dose of MB-III at 0.8 mg/kg has efficacy potential comparable to that of a single dose of liposomal amphotericin B at 5 mg/kg and is therefore considered a promising new antileishmanial lead compound. However, multiple-dose pharmacological, toxicological, and pharmacokinetic studies are still needed before it can become a valid drug candidate for development.
PMCID: PMC415622  PMID: 15155199

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