Plasmodium falciparum glycogen synthase kinase-3: Molecular model, expression, intracellular localisation and selective inhibitors

Eliane Droucheau, Aline Primot, Virginie Thomas, Denise Mattei, Marie Knockaert, Chris Richardson, Pina Sallicandro, Pietro Alano, Ali Jafarshad, Blandine Baratte, Conrad Kunick, Daniel Parzy, Laurence Pearl, Christian Doerig, Laurent Meijer

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Worldwide increasing resistance of Plasmodium falciparum to common anti-malaria agents calls for the urgent identification of new drugs. Glycogen synthase kinase-3 (GSK-3) represents a potential screening target for the identification of such new compounds. We have cloned PfGSK-3, the P. falciparum gene homologue of GSK-3β. It encodes a 452-amino-acid, 53-kDa protein with an unusual N-terminal extension but a well-conserved catalytic domain. A PfGSK-3 tridimensional homology model was generated on the basis of the recently crystallised human GSK-3β. It illustrates how the regions involved in the active site, in substrate binding (P+4 phosphate binding domain) and in activity regulation are highly conserved. Recombinant PfGSK-3 phosphorylates GS-1, a GSK-3-specific peptide substrate, glycogen synthase, recombinant axin and the microtubule-binding protein tau. Neither native nor recombinant PfGSK-3 binds to axin. Expression and intracellular localisation of PfGSK-3 were investigated in the erythrocytic stages. Although PfGSK-3 mRNA is present in similar amounts at all stages, the PfGSK-3 protein is predominantly expressed at the early trophozoite stage. Once synthesized, PfGSK-3 is rapidly transported to the erythrocyte cytoplasm where it associates with vesicle-like structures. The physiological functions of PfGSK-3 for the parasite remain to be elucidated. A series of GSK-3β inhibitors were tested on both PfGSK-3 and mammalian GSK-3β. Remarkably these enzymes show a partially divergent sensitivity to the compounds, suggesting that PfGSK-3 selective compounds might be identified.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)181-196
Number of pages16
JournalBBA Proteins and Proteomics
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 11 Mar 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Casein kinase 1/2
  • CDK
  • CK1/2
  • Cyclin-dependent kinase
  • Glycogen synthase kinase
  • Glycogen synthase kinase-3
  • GSK-3
  • Kinase inhibitor
  • LB
  • Luria Bertani medium
  • Malaria
  • MAPK
  • Microtubule-associated protein kinase
  • PBS
  • PfGSK-3
  • Plasmodium
  • Protein kinase

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