The mode of action of many antimalarial drugs is unknown. Chemogenomic profiling is a powerful method to address this issue. This experimental approach entails disruption of gene function and phenotypic screening for changes in sensitivity to bioactive compounds. Here, we describe the application of reverse genetics for chemogenomic profiling in Plasmodium. Plasmodium falciparum parasites harbouring a transgenic insertion of the glmS ribozyme downstream of the dihydrofolate reductase-thymidylate synthase (DHFR-TS) gene were used for chemogenomic profiling of antimalarial compounds to identify those which target DHFR-TS. DHFR-TS expression can be attenuated by exposing parasites to glucosamine. Parasites with attenuated DHFR-TS expression were significantly more sensitive to antifolate drugs known to target DHFR-TS. In contrast, no change in sensitivity to other antimalarial drugs with different modes of action was observed. Chemogenomic profiling was performed using the Medicines for Malaria Venture (Switzerland) Malaria Box compound library, and two compounds were identified as novel DHFR-TS inhibitors. We also tested the glmS ribozyme inPlasmodium berghei, a rodent malaria parasite. The expression of reporter genes with downstream glmS ribozyme could be attenuated in transgenic parasites comparable with that obtained in P. falciparum. The chemogenomic profiling method was applied in a P. berghei line expressing a pyrimethamine-resistant Toxoplasma gondii DHFR-TS reporter gene under glmS ribozyme control. Parasites with attenuated expression of this gene were significantly sensitised to antifolates targeting DHFR-TS, but not other drugs with different modes of action. In conclusion, these data show that the glmS ribozyme reverse genetic tool can be applied for identifying primary targets of antimalarial compounds in human and rodent malaria parasites.
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