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Redox Rep. 2003;8(5):276-9.

Glutathione is involved in the antimalarial action of chloroquine and its modulation affects drug sensitivity of human and murine species of Plasmodium.

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Department of Biological Chemistry, Institute of Life Sciences, Hadassah Medical School, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel.


Ferriprotoporphyrin IX (FP) is released inside the food vacuole of the malaria parasite during the digestion of host cell hemoglobin. FP is detoxified by its biomineralization to hemozoin. This process is effectively inhibited by chloroquine (CQ) and amodiaquine (AQ). Undegraded FP accumulates in the membrane fraction and inhibits enzymes of infected cells in parallel with parasite killing. FP is demonstrably degraded by reduced glutathione (GSH) in a radical-mediated mechanism. This degradation is inhibited by CQ and AQ in a competitive manner, thus explaining the ability of increased GSH levels in Plasmodium falciparum-infected cells to increase resistance to CQ and vice versa, and to render Plasmodium berghei that were selected for CQ resistance in vivo sensitive to the CQ when glutathione synthesis is inhibited. Some over-the-counter drugs that are known to reduce GSH in body tissues when used in excess were found to enhance the antimalarial action of CQ and AQ in mice infected either with P. berghei or Plasmodium vinckei. In contrast, N-acetyl-cysteine which is expected to increase the cellular levels of GSH, antagonized the action of CQ. These results suggest that some over-the-counter drugs can be used in combination with some antimalarials to which the parasite has become resistant.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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