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J Biol Chem. 1997 Jan 24;272(4):2046-9.

Inhibition of Plasmodium falciparum protein synthesis. Targeting the plastid-like organelle with thiostrepton.

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  • 1Growth and Development Section, Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases, NIAID, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892-0425, USA.


The human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum has two extrachromosomal DNAs associated with organelles whose function is unclear. Both genomes encode ribosomal RNAs (rRNAs) that are distinct from the nuclear-encoded rRNAs. Secondary structure analysis of all the P. falciparum rRNAs indicates that only the large subunit (LSU) rRNA encoded by the plastid-like genome is the target for thiostrepton. Indeed we find that thiostrepton inhibits growth of the parasite in the micromolar range which is 10-fold below concentrations with observable effects on total protein synthesis. We have further examined selective effects of thiostrepton on the plastid function by comparing differential effects of the drug on cytoplasmic and organellar encoded transcripts. Treatment with either thiostrepton or rifampin, an inhibitor of organellar and eubacterial RNA polymerase, both showed disappearance of organellar-encoded RNA transcripts within 6 h of treatment while transcripts of a nuclear-encoded mRNA remained constant for at least 8 h of treatment. Hence, we show a selective effect on organelle function that is suggestive of interference in the protein synthesis apparatus of the plastid. Sensitivity of P. falciparum to thiostrepton confirms that the plastid-like genome is essential for the erythrocytic cycle and presents a novel therapeutic site for this class of antibiotics.

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