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J Infect Dis. 2012 Jul 15;206(2):229-37. doi: 10.1093/infdis/jir857. Epub 2012 Jan 30.

Pharmacological validation of Trypanosoma brucei phosphodiesterases as novel drug targets.

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Institute of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation, College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences, University of Glasgow, United Kingdom.


The development of drugs for neglected infectious diseases often uses parasite-specific enzymes as targets. We here demonstrate that parasite enzymes with highly conserved human homologs may represent a promising reservoir of new potential drug targets. The cyclic nucleotide-specific phosphodiesterases (PDEs) of Trypanosoma brucei, causative agent of the fatal human sleeping sickness, are essential for the parasite. The highly conserved human homologs are well-established drug targets. We here describe what is to our knowledge the first pharmacological validation of trypanosomal PDEs as drug targets. High-throughput screening of a proprietary compound library identified a number of potent hits. One compound, the tetrahydrophthalazinone compound A (Cpd A), was further characterized. It causes a dramatic increase of intracellular cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP). Short-term cell viability is not affected, but cell proliferation is inhibited immediately, and cell death occurs within 3 days. Cpd A prevents cytokinesis, resulting in multinucleated, multiflagellated cells that eventually lyse. These observations pharmacologically validate the highly conserved trypanosomal PDEs as potential drug targets.

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