The integration of genomic and structural information in the development of high affinity plasmepsin inhibitors

Azin Nezami, Ernesto Freire

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


The plasmepsins are key enzymes in the life cycle of the Plasmodium parasites responsible for malaria. Since plasmepsin inhibition leads to parasite death, these enzymes have been acknowledged to be important targets for the development of new antimalarial drugs. The development of effective plasmepsin inhibitors, however, is compounded by their genomic diversity which gives rise not to a unique target for drug development but to a family of closely related targets. Successful drugs will have to inhibit not one but several related enzymes with high affinity. Structure-based drug design against heterogeneous targets requires a departure from the classic 'lock-and-key' paradigm that leads to the development of conformationally constrained molecules aimed at a single target. Drug molecules designed along those principles are usually rigid and unable to adapt to target variations arising from naturally occurring genetic polymorphisms or drug-induced resistant mutations. Heterogeneous targets need adaptive drug molecules, characterised by the presence of flexible elements at specific locations that sustain a viable binding affinity against existing or expected polymorphisms. Adaptive ligands have characteristic thermodynamic signatures that distinguish them from their rigid counterparts. This realisation has led to the development of rigorous thermodynamic design guidelines that take advantage of correlations between the structure of lead compounds and the enthalpic and entropic components of the binding affinity. In this paper, we discuss the application of the thermodynamic approach to the development of high affinity (Ki ∼ pM) plasmepsin inhibitors. In particular, a family of allophenylnorstatine-based compounds is evaluated for their potential to inhibit a wide spectrum of plasmepsins.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1669-1676
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal for Parasitology
Issue number13
StatePublished - Dec 4 2002


  • Adaptive inhibitors
  • Amino acid polymorphisms
  • Genomics
  • Malaria
  • Plasmepsins
  • Plasmodium
  • Protease inhibitors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Infectious Diseases


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