Background: The Plasmodium falciparum cysteine proteases, also known as falcipains, are
involved in different erythrocytic cycle processes of the malaria parasite, e.g. hydrolysis of host haemoglobin,
erythrocyte invasion, and erythrocyte rupture. With the biochemical characterization of four
falcipains so far, FP-2 (falcipain-2) and FP-3 (falcipain-3), members of the papain-like CAC1 family,
are essential haemoglobinases. They could therefore be referred to as potential anti-malarial drug targets
in the search for novel therapies, which could ease the burden caused by the increasing resistance
to current antimalarial drugs.
Objectives: This review provides a summary of the most important results, highlighting the drug design
approaches essential for the understanding of the mechanism of inhibition and discovery of inhibitors
against cysteine proteases from P. falciparum.
Results: Rational and computer-aided drug discovery approaches for the design of promising falcipain
inhibitors are described herein, with a focus on a variety of structure-based and ligand-based modeling
approaches. Moreover, the key features of ligand recognition against these targets are emphasized.
Conclusion: This review would be of interest to scientists engaged in the development of drug design
strategies to target the cysteine proteases, FP-2 and FP-3.