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Parasitol Res. 2003 Apr;89(6):451-8. Epub 2003 Jan 8.

Killing of intraerythrocytic Plasmodium falciparum by lysosomotropic amino acid esters.

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Department of Biological Chemistry, Institute of Life Sciences, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem 91904, Israel.


Esters of amino acids are known to penetrate into cells by simple diffusion. Subsequently, they are hydrolyzed by hydrolases to release the parent amino acid. Due to the abundance of hydrolases in phagolysosomes, amino acids accumulate, there because the rate of influx and hydrolysis exceed the rate of amino acid efflux through specific carriers. The osmotic effect of this accumulation results in the disruption of the organelles. This mechanism has been demonstrated to be responsible for the killing of Leishmania amastigotes by amino acid esters. In this investigation, it is shown that all esters tested, including alcohol esters, N-acetyl esters and the esters of some dipeptides, inhibit the growth of Plasmodium falciparum in culture. Inhibition is time-dependent and, in some cases, ring-stage parasites are more sensitive than trophozoites. Similar to the findings with Leishmania, alcohol esters of Glu, Leu, Met, Phe and Trp are more toxic to Plasmodium whereas Ala, Gly, His and Ile are much less noxious. Esters caused the release of acridine orange that selectively accumulates in the phagolysosome-like food vacuole of the parasite, attesting the ostensible destruction of this organelle by osmotic lysis. The toxicity of the N-acetyl esters is probably associated in part to their ability to inhibit cytosolic proteases. Since excess of amino acids can also inhibit proteolysis, the effect of free amino acids on parasite growth was also tested. Of the 19 odd amino acids tested, only three, namely Cys, His and Trp, were found to be toxic to the parasites at millimolar concentrations and the reasons for their possible specific toxicity are discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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