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Current Medicinal Chemistry


ISSN (Print): 0929-8673
ISSN (Online): 1875-533X

Aspartic Peptidases of Human Pathogenic Trypanosomatids: Perspectives and Trends for Chemotherapy

Author(s): L. O. Santos, A. S. Garcia-Gomes, M. Catanho, C. L. Sodre, A. L.S. Santos, M. H. Branquinha and C. M. d’Avila-Levy

Volume 20 , Issue 25 , 2013

Page: [3116 - 3133] Pages: 18

DOI: 10.2174/0929867311320250007


Aspartic peptidases are proteolytic enzymes present in many organisms like vertebrates, plants, fungi, protozoa and in some retroviruses such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). These enzymes are involved in important metabolic processes in microorganisms/virus and play major roles in infectious diseases. Although few studies have been performed in order to identify and characterize aspartic peptidase in trypanosomatids, which include the etiologic agents of leishmaniasis, Chagas’ disease and sleeping sickness, some beneficial properties of aspartic peptidase inhibitors have been described on fundamental biological events of these pathogenic agents. In this context, aspartic peptidase inhibitors (PIs) used in the current chemotherapy against HIV (e.g., amprenavir, indinavir, lopinavir, nelfinavir, ritonavir and saquinavir) were able to inhibit the aspartic peptidase activity produced by different species of Leishmania. Moreover, the treatment of Leishmania promastigotes with HIV PIs induced several perturbations on the parasite homeostasis, including loss of the motility and arrest of proliferation/growth. The HIV PIs also induced an increase in the level of reactive oxygen species and the appearance of irreversible morphological alterations, triggering parasite death pathways such as programed cell death (apoptosis) and uncontrolled autophagy. The blockage of physiological parasite events as well as the induction of death pathways culminated in its incapacity to adhere, survive and escape of phagocytic cells. Collectively, these results support the data showing that parasites treated with HIV PIs have a significant reduction in the ability to cause in vivo infection. Similarly, the treatment of Trypanosoma cruzi cells with pepstatin A showed a significant inhibition on both aspartic peptidase activity and growth as well as promoted several and irreversible morphological changes. These studies indicate that aspartic peptidases can be promising targets in trypanosomatid cells and aspartic proteolytic inhibitors can be benefic chemotherapeutic agents against these human pathogenic microorganisms.

Keywords: Alternative chemotherapy, aspartic peptidases, Chagas’ disease, HAART, HIV, HIV peptidase inhibitors, Leishmania, leishmaniasis, pathogenesis, peptidases, proteolytic inhibitors, Trypanosoma, virulence.

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