A multistage antimalarial targets the plasmepsins IX and X essential for invasion and egress

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Science  27 Oct 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6362, pp. 522-528
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf8675

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Plasmodium parasite entrance and exit

Sweats and fever are the hallmarks of malaria. Red blood cells are the replication factories for malaria parasites. Fever occurs when the parasites' merozoite stages burst en masse from red blood cells into the circulation. Nasamu et al. and Pino et al. discovered that two parasite proteases, plasmepsin IX and X, are essential for mass cell exit (see the Perspective by Boddey). Plasmepsin X is also used by the merozoites to enter a fresh red blood cell to continue the replicative cycle. These two plasmepsins act by regulating the maturation of enzymes required to disrupt host cell membranes. Because these functions are essential for the parasite, the authors used protease inhibitors to show that plasmepsins provide potential drug targets.

Science, this issue p. 518, p. 522; see also p. 445


Regulated exocytosis by secretory organelles is important for malaria parasite invasion and egress. Many parasite effector proteins, including perforins, adhesins, and proteases, are extensively proteolytically processed both pre- and postexocytosis. Here we report the multistage antiplasmodial activity of the aspartic protease inhibitor hydroxyl-ethyl-amine–based scaffold compound 49c. This scaffold inhibits the preexocytosis processing of several secreted rhoptry and microneme proteins by targeting the corresponding maturases plasmepsins IX (PMIX) and X (PMX), respectively. Conditional excision of PMIX revealed its crucial role in invasion, and recombinantly active PMIX and PMX cleave egress and invasion factors in a 49c-sensitive manner.

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