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Curr Drug Targets. 2000 Sep;1(2):155-62.

Cysteine proteinases of trypanosome parasites: novel targets for chemotherapy.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, University of California San Francisco, Veterans' Affairs Medical Center, 94121, USA.


The protozoan parasites, Trypanosoma brucei and T. cruzi, that cause sleeping sickness in sub-Saharan Africa and Chagas' Disease in Latin America, respectively, exert significant morbidity and mortality in man. Combinations of toxicity and differential efficacy of current drugs provide an urgent need to develop novel, cheap and effective chemotherapies. Research over the last decade with cultured trypanosomes and mice experimentally infected with these parasites has demonstrated that trypanosome cysteine proteinases are valid targets for the rational design of new drugs. In particular, potent peptidyl and peptidomimetic inhibitors of brucipain (a.k.a. trypanopain-Tb) and cruzain (a.k.a. cruzipain), the respective cysteine proteinases of T. brucei and T. cruzi, have proved trypanocidal. Efforts are ongoing to develop more specific non-toxic inhibitors of various chemistries with improved biological half-lives and biovailability characteristics. Here, the biochemical and biological properties together with the history, current status and perceived directions on the development of specific inhibitors of trypanosome cysteine proteinases will be reviewed.

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