Apicomplexan parasitic diseases impose devastating impacts on much of the worlds population. The increasing prevalence of drug resistant parasites and the growing number of immuno-compromised individuals are exacerbating the problem to the point that the need for novel, inexpensive drugs is greater now than ever. Discovery of a prokaryotic, Type II fatty acid synthesis (FAS) pathway associated with the plastid-like organelle (apicoplast) of Plasmodium and Toxoplasma has provided a wealth of novel drug targets. Since this pathway is both essential and fundamentally different from the cytosolic Type I pathway of the human host, apicoplast FAS has tremendous potential for the development of parasite-specific inhibitors. Many components of this pathway are already the target for existing antibiotics and herbicides, which should significantly reduce the time and cost of drug development. Continuing interest - both in the pharmaceutical and herbicide industries - in fatty acid synthesis inhibitors proffers an ongoing stream of potential new anti-parasitic compounds. It has now emerged that not all apicomplexan parasites have retained the Type II fatty acid biosynthesis pathway. No fatty acid biosynthesis enzymes are encoded in the genome of Theileria annulata or T. parva, suggesting that fatty acid synthesis is lacking in these parasites. The human intestinal parasite Cryptosporidium parvum appears to have lost the apicoplast entirely; instead relying on an unusual cytosolic Type I FAS. Nevertheless, newly developed anti-cancer and anti-obesity drugs targeting human Type I FAS may yet prove efficacious against Cryptosporidium and other apicomplexans that rely on this Type I FAS pathway.
Keywords: Cryptosporidium, Type I FAS inhibitors, falciparum falciparum, cytosolic apicomplexan ACCases, pyruvate dehydrogenase com
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