A novel approach for the discovery of chemically diverse anti-malarial compounds targeting the Plasmodium falciparum Coenzyme A synthesis pathway

31 Aug 2014

Fletcher S, Avery VM.

Malaria Journal

DOI: 10.1186/1475-2875-13-343.



Malaria is a devastating parasitic disease, causing more than 600,000 deaths annually. Drug resistance has rendered previous generation anti-malarials ineffective and is also rapidly emerging against the current therapeutics of choice, artemisinin and its derivatives, making the discovery of new anti-malarials with novel mechanisms of action a priority. The Coenzyme A (CoA) synthesis pathway, a well-known anti-microbial drug target that is also essential for the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum, has not yet been exploited in anti-malarial drug development. A novel high throughput approach for the identification of chemically diverse inhibitors of the CoA synthesis pathway is reported.


To identify novel CoA synthesis pathway inhibitors, a chemical rescue screening approach was developed. In short, a test compound was considered likely to inhibit the P. falciparum CoA synthesis pathway, if addition of the end product of the pathway, CoA, was able to negate the growth-inhibitory action of the compound on P. falciparum parasites.


The chemical rescue approach was employed to screen the Medicines for Malaria Venture malaria box and a small focussed compound library. This resulted in the identification of 12 chemically diverse potential inhibitors of the CoA pathway. To ascertain accurate potency and selectivity, the half-maximal inhibitory concentration (IC50 value) of these compounds was determined for both P. falciparum and a human cell line. Seven compounds showed submicromolar activity against the parasite, with selectivity indices ranging between six and greater than 300. CoA supplementation was confirmed to alleviate the effects on parasite growth and cell viability in a dose dependent manner. Microscopic investigation into the stage of effect and phenotype of treated parasites was performed on a selection of the active compounds.


The chemical rescue approach described resulted in the identification of a set of chemically diverse CoA synthesis pathway inhibitors with IC50 values ranging between 120 nM and 6 μM. The identified compounds will be utilized as tools for further investigating the parasite CoA synthesis pathway to define their exact mechanism of action. Furthermore, the chemical diversity of the compounds identified substantiates the suitability of this approach to identify novel starting points for future anti-malarial drug development.


Read the full article on the Malaria Journal website.