Millions of deaths each year are attributed to malaria worldwide. Transmitted through the bite of an Anopheles mosquito, infection and subsequent death from the Plasmodium species, most notably P. falciparum, can readily spread through a susceptible population. A malaria vaccine does not exist and resistance to virtually every antimalarial drug predicts that mortality and morbidity associated with this disease will increase. With only a few antimalarial drugs currently in the pipeline, new therapeutic options and novel chemotypes are desperately needed. Hit-to-Lead diversity may successfully provide novel inhibitory scaffolds when essential enzymes are targeted, for example, the plasmodial protein kinases. Throughout the entire life cycle of the malaria parasite, protein kinases are essential for growth and development. Ongoing efforts continue to characterize these kinases, while simultaneously pursuing them as antimalarial drug targets. A collection of structural data, inhibitory profiles and target validation has set the foundation and support for targeting the malarial kinome. Pursuing protein kinases as cancer drug targets has generated a wealth of information on the inhibitory strategies that can be useful for antimalarial drug discovery. In this review, progress on selected protein kinases is described. As the search for novel antimalarials continues, an understanding of the phosphor-regulatory pathways will not only validate protein kinase targets, but also will identify novel chemotypes to thwart malaria drug resistance.
Keywords: Antimalarial agents, drug development, kinase family, Plasmodium falciparum, plasmodiual protein kinases, protein kinases, malaria, Anopheles, scaffolds, plasmodial protein kinases