New antimalarials are needed due to the rapid development of resistance to currently deployed drugs. Because Plasmodium species are unable to synthesize purines, purine salvage pathways have been proposed as novel anti-malarial targets. The purine salvage pathway in Plasmodium is streamlined with adenosine deaminase (ADA), purine nucleoside phosphorylase (PNP) and hypoxanthine-xanthine-guanine-phosphoribosyltransferase (HXGPRT) representing the major pathway for purine acquisition. Plasmodium falciparum enzymes PfADA and PfPNP have unique dual specificity that enable them to act upon methylthiopurines resulting from polyamine synthesis. Thus Plasmodium ADA and PNP function in both purine salvage and purine recycling. Genetic studies have confirmed the importance of Plasmodium PNP for viability of malaria parasites. Immucillins, powerful picomolar transition state inhibitors of PNP, are active against cultured Plasmodium falciparum and inhibit all Plasmodium PNPs tested. Several immucillins have undergone human clinical trials, and these compounds represent a new class of compounds with potential activity against human malarias.
Keywords: Purine salvage, immucillin, purine nucleoside phosphorylase, malaria, drug development
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