Identification of potent phosphodiesterase inhibitors that demonstrate cyclic nucleotide-dependent functions in apicomplexan parasites

Brittany Louise Howard, Katherine L Harvey, Rebecca J Stewart, Mauro F Azevedo, Brendan S Crabb, Ian Jennings, Paul R Sanders, David Thomas Manallack, Philip Thompson, Christopher J Tonkin, Paul R Gilson

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64 Citations (Scopus)


Apicomplexan parasites, including Plasmodium falciparum and Toxoplasma gondii, the causative agents of severe malaria and toxoplasmosis, respectively, undergo several critical developmental transitions during their lifecycle. Most important for human pathogenesis is the asexual cycle, in which parasites undergo rounds of host cell invasion, replication, and egress (exit), destroying host cell tissue in the process. Previous work has identified important roles for Protein Kinase G (PKG) and Protein Kinase A (PKA) in parasite egress and invasion, yet little is understood about the regulation of cyclic nucleotides, cGMP and cAMP, that activate these enzymes. To address this, we have focused upon the development of inhibitors of 3 ,5 -cyclic nucleotide phosphodiesterases (PDEs) to block the breakdown of cyclic nucleotides. This was done by repurposing human PDE inhibitors noting various similarities of the human and apicomplexan PDE binding sites. The most potent inhibitors blocked the in vitro proliferation of P. falciparum and T. gondii more potently than the benchmark compound zaprinast. 5-Benzyl-3-isopropyl-1H-pyrazolo[4,3-d]pyrimidin-7(6H)-one (BIPPO) was found to be a potent inhibitor of recombinant P. falciparum PfPDEa and activated PKG-dependent egress of T. gondii and P. falciparum, likely by promoting the exocytosis of micronemes, an activity that was reversed by a specific Protein Kinase G inhibitor. BIPPO also promotes cAMP-dependent phosphorylation of a P. falciparum ligand critical for host cell invasion, suggesting that the compound inhibits single or multiple PDE isoforms that regulate both cGMP and cAMP levels. BIPPO is therefore a useful tool for the dissection of signal transduction pathways in apicomplexan parasites.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1145 - 1154
Number of pages10
JournalACS Chemical Biology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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