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Redox Rep. 2003;8(5):280-3.

Double-drug development against antioxidant enzymes from Plasmodium falciparum.

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UMR 8525 CNRS - Université de Lille 2, Institut de Biologie de Lille, Lille, France.


New drugs against malaria are urgently and continuously needed. Plasmodium parasites are exposed to higher fluxes of reactive oxygen species and need high activities of intracellular antioxidant systems. A most important antioxidative system consists of (di)thiols which are recycled by disulfide reductases (DR), namely both glutathione reductases (GR) of the malarial parasite Plasmodium falciparum and man, and the thioredoxin reductase (TrxR) of P. falciparum. The aim of our interdisciplinary research is to substantiate DR inhibitors as antimalarial agents. Such compounds are active per se but, in addition, they can reverse thiol-based resistance against other drugs in parasites. Reversal of drug resistance by DR inhibitors is currently investigated for the commonly used antimalarial drug chloroquine (CQ). Our recent strategy is based on the synthesis of inhibitors of the glutathione reductases from parasite and host erythrocyte. With the expectation of a synergistic or additive effect, double-headed prodrugs were designed to be directed against two different and essential functions of the malarial parasite P. falciparum, namely glutathione regeneration and heme detoxification. The prodrugs were prepared by linking bioreversibly a GR inhibitor to a 4-aminoquinoline moiety which is known to concentrate in the acidic food vacuole of parasites. Drug-enzyme interaction was correlated with antiparasitic action in vitro on strains resistant towards CQ and in vivo in Plasmodium berghei-infected mice as well as absence of cytotoxicity towards human cells. Because TrxR of P. falciparum was recently shown to be responsible for the residual glutathione disulfide-reducing capacity observed after GR inhibition in P. falciparum, future development of antimalarial drug-candidates that act by perturbing the redox equilibrium of parasites is based on the design of new double-drugs based on TrxR inhibitors as potential antimalarial drug candidates.

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