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Biochem Pharmacol. 1994 Aug 17;48(4):737-41.

Enhancement of hemin-induced membrane damage by artemisinin.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, New England Deaconess Hospital, Boston, MA 02215.


Artemisinin is an effective antimalarial agent, and its action on the malarial parasite is suggested to be mediated by oxidative processes. Since malarial parasites contain a high concentration of hemin, and hemin may induce the formation of reactive oxygen species, we investigated the interaction of artemisinin, iron and hemin. We used erythrocyte membrane-bound Ca2+ pump ATPase (basal) and calmodulin (CaM)-activated Ca2+ pump ATPase as our model. Membranes were incubated with artemisinin in the presence or absence of iron-ascorbate or hemin at 37 degrees for 1 hr. Following incubation, ATPase activity was measured. Our results showed that artemisinin (500 microM) had no effect on ATPase activities. However, artemisinin enhanced the inhibitory effect of iron (50 microM)-ascorbate (500 microM) on ATPase activity (46.3 +/- 3.9 vs 63 +/- 2.1% for basal; 57.2 +/- 2.5 vs 74.8 +/- 2.1% for CaM-activated). Desferrioxamine (DFO, 200 microM) blocked significantly the effect of iron-ascorbate-artemisinin on ATPases (P < 0.01). Hemin inhibited ATPase activity in a concentration-dependent fashion. Artemisinin enhanced hemin (10 microM)-induced inhibition of basal (36.0 +/- 6.0 vs 73.7 +/- 3.0%) and CaM-activated Ca2+ pump ATPase (31.6 +/- 2.8 vs 70.0 +/- 1.5%). Iron chelators (DFO, ferene, 8-hydroxyquinoline, 1,10-phenanthroline, and 1,2-dimethyl-3-hydroxypyrid-4-one) had no effect on artemisinin plus hemin-induced enzyme inhibition. Catalase (2000 U/mL) had a minor effect on the artemisinin-hemin or hemin-mediated effect. Thiourea (1 mM) had no effect. However, superoxide dismutase (500 U/mL) and dithiothreitol blocked artemisinin-hemin or hemin-mediated ATPase inhibition significantly (P < 0.001). In conclusion, these results suggest that, in our model, artemisinin enhances the damage of hemin-induced ATPases via oxidation of thiol groups on the enzymes. Free iron or hydroxyl radical does not seem to be involved. This interaction between artemisinin and hemin may contribute to the antimalarial action of artemisinin against malarial parasites.

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