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Curr Drug Targets. 2007 Jan;8(1):31-47.

Targeting purine and pyrimidine metabolism in human apicomplexan parasites.

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Manchester Interdisciplinary Biocentre, Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Manchester, 131 Princess Street, Manchester M1 7ND, UK.


Synthesis de novo, acquisition by salvage and interconversion of purines and pyrimidines represent the fundamental requirements for their eventual assembly into nucleic acids as nucleotides and the deployment of their derivatives in other biochemical pathways. A small number of drugs targeted to nucleotide metabolism, by virtue of their effect on folate biosynthesis and recycling, have been successfully used against apicomplexan parasites such as Plasmodium and Toxoplasma for many years, although resistance is now a major problem in the prevention and treatment of malaria. Many targets not involving folate metabolism have also been explored at the experimental level. However, the unravelling of the genome sequences of these eukaryotic unicellular organisms, together with increasingly sophisticated molecular analyses, opens up possibilities of introducing new drugs that could interfere with these processes. This review examines the status of established drugs of this type and the potential for further exploiting the vulnerability of apicomplexan human pathogens to inhibition of this key area of metabolism.

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