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J Med Chem. 2013 Oct 24;56(20):7761-71. doi: 10.1021/jm400325j. Epub 2013 Sep 6.

Using genetic methods to define the targets of compounds with antimalarial activity.

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Department of Pediatrics, University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine , 9500 Gilman Drive 0741, La Jolla, California 92093, United States.


Although phenotypic cellular screening has been used to drive antimalarial drug discovery in recent years, in some cases target-based drug discovery remains more attractive. This is especially true when appropriate high-throughput cellular assays are lacking, as is the case for drug discovery efforts that aim to provide a replacement for primaquine (4-N-(6-methoxyquinolin-8-yl)pentane-1,4-diamine), the only drug that can block Plasmodium transmission to Anopheles mosquitoes and eliminate liver-stage hypnozoites. At present, however, there are no known chemically validated parasite protein targets that are important in all Plasmodium parasite developmental stages and that can be used in traditional biochemical compound screens. We propose that a plethora of novel, chemically validated, cross-stage antimalarial targets still remain to be discovered from the ~5,500 proteins encoded by the Plasmodium genomes. Here we discuss how in vitro evolution of drug-resistant strains of Plasmodium falciparum and subsequent whole-genome analysis can be used to find the targets of some of the many compounds discovered in whole-cell phenotypic screens.

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