Metabolic responses in blood-stage malaria parasites associated with increased and decreased sensitivity to PfATP4 inhibitors

Shivendra G. Tewari, Rubayet Elahi, Bobby Kwan, Krithika Rajaram, Suyash Bhatnagar, Jaques Reifman, Sean T. Prigge, Akhil B. Vaidya, Anders Wallqvist

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Spiroindolone and pyrazoleamide antimalarial compounds target Plasmodium falciparum P-type ATPase (PfATP4) and induce disruption of intracellular Na+ homeostasis. Recently, a PfATP4 mutation was discovered that confers resistance to a pyrazoleamide while increasing sensitivity to a spiroindolone. Transcriptomic and metabolic adaptations that underlie this seemingly contradictory response of P. falciparum to sublethal concentrations of each compound were examined to understand the different cellular accommodation to PfATP4 disruptions. Methods: A genetically engineered P. falciparum Dd2 strain (Dd2A211V) carrying an Ala211Val (A211V) mutation in PfATP4 was used to identify metabolic adaptations associated with the mutation that results in decreased sensitivity to PA21A092 (a pyrazoleamide) and increased sensitivity to KAE609 (a spiroindolone). First, sublethal doses of PA21A092 and KAE609 causing substantial reduction (30–70%) in Dd2A211V parasite replication were identified. Then, at this sublethal dose of PA21A092 (or KAE609), metabolomic and transcriptomic data were collected during the first intraerythrocytic developmental cycle. Finally, the time-resolved data were integrated with a whole-genome metabolic network model of P. falciparum to characterize antimalarial-induced physiological adaptations. Results: Sublethal treatment with PA21A092 caused significant (p < 0.001) alterations in the abundances of 91 Plasmodium gene transcripts, whereas only 21 transcripts were significantly altered due to sublethal treatment with KAE609. In the metabolomic data, a substantial alteration (≥ fourfold) in the abundances of carbohydrate metabolites in the presence of either compound was found. The estimated rates of macromolecule syntheses between the two antimalarial-treated conditions were also comparable, except for the rate of lipid synthesis. A closer examination of parasite metabolism in the presence of either compound indicated statistically significant differences in enzymatic activities associated with synthesis of phosphatidylcholine, phosphatidylserine, and phosphatidylinositol. Conclusion: The results of this study suggest that malaria parasites activate protein kinases via phospholipid-dependent signalling in response to the ionic perturbation induced by the Na+ homeostasis disruptor PA21A092. Therefore, targeted disruption of phospholipid signalling in PA21A092-resistant parasites could be a means to block the emergence of resistance to PA21A092.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number56
JournalMalaria journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023


  • Drug resistance
  • Genome-scale metabolic network model
  • Metabolomics
  • Na homeostasis
  • Plasmodium falciparum
  • Transcriptomics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Parasitology


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