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J Mol Graph Model. 2005 Sep;24(1):72-80.

Structural model of the Plasmodium CDK, Pfmrk, a novel target for malaria therapeutics.

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Department of Pharmacology, University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School (UMDNJ-RWJMS) and the Informatics Institute of UMDNJ, Piscataway, NJ 08854, USA.


Malaria, with 300-500 million clinical cases resulting in 1-3 million fatalities a year, is one of the most deadly tropical diseases. As current antimalarial therapeutics become increasingly ineffective due to parasitic resistance, there exists an urgent need to develop and pursue new therapeutic strategies. Recent genome sequencing and molecular cloning projects have identified several enzymes from Plasmodium (P.) falciparum that may represent novel drug targets, including a family of proteins that are homologous to the mammalian cyclin-dependent kinases (CDKs). CDKs are essential for the control of the mammalian cell cycle and, based on the conservation of the CDKs across species, the plasmodial CDKs are expected to play a crucial role in parasitic growth. Here we present a 3D structural model of Pfmrk, a putative human CDK activating kinase (CAK) homolog in P. falciparum. Notable features of the present structural model include: (1) parameterization of the Mg2+ hexacoordination system using ab initio quantum chemical calculations to accurately represent the ATP-kinase interaction; and (2) comparison between the docking scores and measured binding affinities for a series of oxindole-based Pfmrk inhibitors of known activity. Detailed analysis of inhibitor-Pfmrk binding interactions enabled us to identify specific residues (viz. Met66, Met75, Met91, Met94 and Phe143) within the Pfmrk binding pocket that may play an important role in inhibitor binding affinity and selectivity. The availability of this Pfmrk structural model, together with insights gained from analysis of ligand-receptor interactions, should promote the rational design of potent and selective Pfmrk inhibitors as antimalarial therapeutics.

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