Research Article

Mapping the malaria parasite druggable genome by using in vitro evolution and chemogenomics

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Science  12 Jan 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6372, pp. 191-199
DOI: 10.1126/science.aan4472

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Dissecting Plasmodium drug resistance

Malaria is a deadly disease with no effective vaccine. Physicians thus depend on antimalarial drugs to save lives, but such compounds are often rendered ineffective when parasites evolve resistance. Cowell et al. systematically studied patterns of Plasmodium falciparum genome evolution by analyzing the sequences of clones that were resistant to diverse antimalarial compounds across the P. falciparum life cycle (see the Perspective by Carlton). The findings identify hitherto unrecognized drug targets and drug-resistance genes, as well as additional alleles in known drug-resistance genes.

Science, this issue p. 191; see also p. 159

Abstract

Chemogenetic characterization through in vitro evolution combined with whole-genome analysis can identify antimalarial drug targets and drug-resistance genes. We performed a genome analysis of 262 Plasmodium falciparum parasites resistant to 37 diverse compounds. We found 159 gene amplifications and 148 nonsynonymous changes in 83 genes associated with drug-resistance acquisition, where gene amplifications contributed to one-third of resistance acquisition events. Beyond confirming previously identified multidrug-resistance mechanisms, we discovered hitherto unrecognized drug target–inhibitor pairs, including thymidylate synthase and a benzoquinazolinone, farnesyltransferase and a pyrimidinedione, and a dipeptidylpeptidase and an arylurea. This exploration of the P. falciparum resistome and druggable genome will likely guide drug discovery and structural biology efforts, while also advancing our understanding of resistance mechanisms available to the malaria parasite.

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