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Biol Chem. 2002 May;383(5):821-30.

Glutathione S-transferase of the malarial parasite Plasmodium falciparum: characterization of a potential drug target.

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  • 1Interdisciplinary Research Center, Justus-Liebig-University, Giessen, Germany.


Glutathione S-transferases (GSTs), which occur abundantly in most organisms, are essentially involved in the intracellular detoxification of numerous substances including chemotherapeutic agents, and thus play a major role in the development of drug resistance. A gene encoding a protein with sequence identity of up to 37% with known GSTs was identified on chromosome 14 of the malarial parasite Plasmodium falciparum. It was amplified using gametocyte cDNA and expressed in Escherichia coli as a hexahistidyl-tagged protein of 26 kDa subunit size. The homodimeric enzyme (PfGST) was found to catalyse the glutathione (GSH)-dependent modification of 1-chloro-2,4-dinitrobenzene and other typical GST substrates such as o-nitrophenyl acetate, ethacrynic acid, and cumene hydroperoxide. The Km value for GSH was 164+/-20 microM. PfGST was inhibited by cibacron blue (Ki=0.5 microM), S-hexylglutathione (Ki=35 microM), and protoporphyrin IX (Ki=10 microM). Hemin, a most toxic compound for parasitised erythrocytes, was found to be an uncompetitive ligand of PfGST with a Ki of 6.5 microM. Based on the activity of PfGST in extracts of P. falciparum, the enzyme represents 1 to 10% of cellular protein and might therefore serve as an efficient in vivo buffer for parasitotoxic hemin. Destabilising ligands of GST are thus expected to be synergistic with the antimalarial drug chloroquine, which itself was found to be a very weak inhibitor of PfGST (IC50>200 microM). X-ray quality crystals of PfGST (250x200x50 microm) will serve as starting point for structure-based drug design.

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