A microtitre-based method for measuring the haem polymerization inhibitory activity (HPIA) of antimalarial drugs.
Basilico N., Pagani E., Monti D., Olliaro P., Taramelli D.
The malaria parasite metabolizes haemoglobin and detoxifies the resulting haem by polymerizing it to form haemozoin (malaria pigment). A polymer identical to haemozoin, beta-haematin, can be obtained in vitro from haematin at acidic pH. Quinoline-containing anti-malarials (e.g. chloroquine) inhibit the formation of either polymer. Haem polymerization is an essential and unique pharmacological target. To identify molecules with haem polymerization inhibitory activity (HPIA) and quantify their potency, we developed a simple, inexpensive, quantitative in-vitro spectrophotometric microassay of haem polymerization. The assay uses 96-well U-bottomed polystyrene microplates and requires 24 h and a microplate reader. The relative amounts of polymerized and unpolymerized haematin are determined, based on solubility in DMSO, by measuring absorbance at 405 nm in the presence of test compounds as compared with untreated controls. The final product (a solid precipitate of polymerized haematin) was validated using infrared spectroscopy and the assay proved reproducible; in this assay, activity could be partly predicted based on the compound's chemical structure. Both water-soluble and water-insoluble compounds can be quantified by this method. Although the throughput of this assay is lower than that of radiometric methods, the assay is easier to set up and cheaper, and avoids the problems related to radioactive waste disposal.