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Exp Parasitol. 1997 Oct;87(2):112-20.

Plasmodium falciparum: cyanide-resistant oxygen consumption.

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Department of Medicine, University of Alabama at Birmingham 35294, USA.


It has been hypothesized that Plasmodium parasites utilize a branched chain respiratory pathway, consisting of a classical cyanide-sensitive branch and an alternative cyanide-resistant branch. To further explore this hypothesis, the effect of cyanide on Plasmodium falciparum was determined using a polarographic assay. The rate of oxygen consumption by saponin-freed parasites was approximately 5% that of control human white blood cells or of Toxoplasma gondii, consistent with an anabolic role for P. falciparum respiration. However, while all of the oxygen consumption of the control white blood cells and of T. gondii could be inhibited by cyanide, 25% of the oxygen consumption of the P. falciparum parasites was found to be insensitive to high concentrations of cyanide. The cyanide-resistant portion of the parasite oxygen consumption was completely inhibited by two inhibitors of alternative oxidase activities in other systems, propyl gallate and salicyclhydroxamic acid. These studies provide the first direct evidence for a branched chain respiratory pathway in P. falciparum. Furthermore, salicyclhydroxamic acid, propyl gallate, and related inhibitors of alternative oxidase activities were shown to inhibit the growth of P. falciparum in vitro. These results support the need for further investigation of alternative oxidase activity as an antimalarial chemotherapeutic target.

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