The goal of this project is to discover and optimize selective inhibitors of phosphofructokinase (PFK) of trypanosomatid parasites (Trypanosoma brucei, T. cruzi and Leishmania species). These pathogens cause serious, often fatal diseases of humans such as sleeping sickness, Chagas'disease and kala-azar in tropical and subtropical countries primarily in Africa, Central and South America, and Asia where many millions live in areas where the diseases are endemic. Tragically, current drugs for their treatment are unsatisfactory because they are toxic and ineffective against some forms of the diseases, and resistance is becoming increasingly common. Glycolysis is essential in the infective stage of T. brucei and therefore a promising drug target. Inhibitors of glycolytic enzymes such as PFK may thus serve as lead compounds for the development of new drugs. The proposed research has as specific aims: (1) To exploit unique features of trypanosomatid PFK (for which detailed structural information is already available and which has been validated as a drug target by RNAi) for the discovery of selective inhibitors of PFKs from T. brucei (TbPFK) through high-throughput screening of the Molecular Library Small Molecule Repository (MLSMR) containing more than 300,000 small molecules;(2) To confirm the potency of these compounds in a panel of secondary hit validation assays and to test their specificity in kinetic and selectivity assays, and to further improve the potency of the most promising molecules thus obtained by structure-based methods, analogue synthesis and medicinal chemical principles;(3) To determine the mode of action of the most promising molecules by enzyme assays, protein crystallography and biophysical measurements;and (4) To test compounds displaying the highest potency for their ability to inhibit growth of cultured trypanosomatid cells representing pathogenic stages of the parasites, as well as for lack of toxicity toward cultured human cells.
Sleeping sickness in sub-Saharan Africa, Chagas'disease in Central and South America, and kala-azar and related diseases in tropical and subtropical regions of the world cause severe public health and economic burdens on populations that are already caught in a tragic cycle of poverty, poor nutrition and disease. Millions of people worldwide are infected by these potentially fatal diseases and hundreds of millions are at risk. Existing treatments have developed little in the past 40 years, and suffer from toxicity, inefficiency and resistance;the goal of this project is to develop lead drugs that will be suitable for entry into pre-clinical trials.