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Chem Biol Drug Des. 2014 Aug;84(2):158-68. doi: 10.1111/cbdd.12315. Epub 2014 May 12.

In silico characterization of an atypical MAPK phosphatase of Plasmodium falciparum as a suitable target for drug discovery.

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Department of Global Health, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL, 33612, USA.


Plasmodium falciparum, the causative agent of malaria, contributes to significant morbidity and mortality worldwide. Forward genetic analysis of the blood-stage asexual cycle identified the putative phosphatase from PF3D7_1305500 as an important element of intraerythrocytic development expressed throughout the life cycle. Our preliminary evaluation identified it as an atypical mitogen-activated protein kinase phosphatase. Additional bioinformatic analysis delineated a conserved signature motif and three residues with potential importance to functional activity of the atypical dual-specificity phosphatase domain. A homology model of the dual-specificity phosphatase domain was developed for use in high-throughput in silico screening of the available library of antimalarial compounds from ChEMBL-NTD. Seven compounds from this set with predicted affinity to the active site were tested against in vitro cultures, and three had reduced activity against a ∆PF3D7_1305500 parasite, suggesting PF3D7_1305500 is a potential target of the selected compounds. Identification of these compounds provides a novel starting point for a structure-based drug discovery strategy that moves us closer toward the discovery of new classes of clinical antimalarial drugs. These data suggest that mitogen-activated protein kinase phosphatases represent a potentially new class of P. falciparum drug target.


chemical structure; drug discovery; functional genomics (gene KO/KI); kinase; malaria; phosphatase; protein structure

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