An overview of chemotherapeutic targets for antimalarial drug discovery.
Olliaro PL., Yuthavong Y.
The need for new antimalarials comes from the widespread resistance to those in current use. New antimalarial targets are required to allow the discovery of chemically diverse, effective drugs. The search for such new targets and new drug chemotypes will likely be helped by the advent of functional genomics and structure-based drug design. After validation of the putative targets as those capable of providing effective and safe drugs, targets can be used as the basis for screening compounds in order to identify new leads, which, in turn, will qualify for lead optimization work. The combined use of combinatorial chemistry--to generate large numbers of structurally diverse compounds--and of high throughput screening systems--to speed up the testing of compounds--hopefully will help to optimize the process. Potential chemotherapeutic targets in the malaria parasite can be broadly classified into three categories: those involved in processes occurring in the digestive vacuole, enzymes involved in macromolecular and metabolite synthesis, and those responsible for membrane processes and signalling. The processes occurring in the digestive vacuole include haemoglobin digestion, redox processes and free radical formation, and reactions accompanying haem release followed by its polymerization into haemozoin. Many enzymes in macromolecular and metabolite synthesis are promising potential targets, some of which have been established in other microorganisms, although not yet validated for Plasmodium, with very few exceptions (such as dihydrofolate reductase). Proteins responsible for membrane processes, including trafficking and drug transport and signalling, are potentially important also to identify compounds to be used in combination with antimalarial drugs to combat resistance.