M1 aminopeptidases as drug targets: Broad applications or therapeutic niche?

Nyssa Drinkwater, Jisook Lee, Wei Yang, Tess R. Malcolm, Sheena McGowan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


M1 aminopeptidase enzymes are a diverse family of metalloenzymes characterized by conserved structure and reaction specificity. Excluding viruses, M1 aminopeptidases are distributed throughout all phyla, and have been implicated in a wide range of functions including cell maintenance, growth and development, and defense. The structure and catalytic mechanism of M1 aminopeptidases are well understood, and make them ideal candidates for the design of small-molecule inhibitors. As a result, many research groups have assessed their utility as therapeutic targets for both infectious and chronic diseases of humans, and many inhibitors with a range of target specificities and potential therapeutic applications have been developed. Herein, we have aimed to address these studies, to determine whether the family of M1 aminopeptidases does in fact present a universal target for the treatment of a diverse range of human diseases. Our analysis indicates that early validation of M1 aminopeptidases as therapeutic targets is often overlooked, which prevents the enzymes from being confirmed as drug targets. This validation cannot be neglected, and needs to include a thorough characterization of enzymes' specific roles within complex physiological pathways. Furthermore, any chemical probes used in target validation must be carefully designed to ensure that specificity over the closely related enzymes has been achieved. While many drug discovery programs that target M1 aminopeptidases remain in their infancy, certain inhibitors have shown promise for the treatment of a range of conditions including malaria, hypertension, and cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1473-1488
Number of pages16
JournalThe FEBS Journal
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - May 2017


  • Anti-cancer
  • Anti-malarial
  • Drug discovery
  • Inhibitors
  • M1 aminopeptidase

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