Background: Chitin is the main component of fungal, protozoan and helminth cell wall. They help to maintain the structural and functional characteristics of these organisms. The chitin wall is dynamic and is repaired, rearranged and synthesized as the cells develop. Active synthesis can be noticed during cytokinesis, laying of primary septum, maintenance of lateral cell wall integrity and hyphal tip growth. Chitin synthesis involves coordinated action of two enzymes namely, chitin synthase (that lays new cell wall) and chitinase (that removes the older ones). Since chitin synthase is conserved in different eukaryotic microorganisms that can be a ‘soft target’ for inhibition with small molecules. When chitin synthase is inhibited, it leads to the loss of viability of cells owing to the self- disruption of the cell wall by existing chitinase.
Methods: In the described study, small molecules from plant sources were screened for their ability to interfere with hyphal tip growth, by employing Hyphal Tip Burst assay (HTB). Aspergillus niger was used as the model organism. The specific role of these small molecules in interfering with chitin synthesis was established with an in-vitro method. The enzyme required was isolated from Aspergillus niger and its activity was deduced through a novel method involving non-radioactively labelled substrate. The activity of the potential lead molecules were also checked against Candida albicans and Caenorhabditis elegans. The latter was adopted as a surrogate for the pathogenic helminths as it shares similarity with regard to cell wall structure and biochemistry. Moreover, it is widely studied and the methodologies are well established.
Results: Out of the 11 compounds and extracts screened, 8 were found to be prospective. They were also found to be effective against Candida albicans and Caenorhabditis elegans.
Conclusion: Purified Methyl Ethyl Ketone (MEK) Fraction1 (F1) of Coconut (Cocos nucifera) Shell Extract (COSE) was found to be more effective against Candida albicans with an IC50 value of 3.04 μg/mL and on L4 stage of Caenorhabditis elegans with an IC50 of 77.8 μg/mL.
[http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/AAC.49.7.2612-2617.2005] [PMID: 15980327]