The Multistage Antimalarial Compound Calxinin Perturbates P. falciparum Ca2+ Homeostasis by Targeting a Unique Ion Channel


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Malaria elimination urgently needs novel antimalarial therapies that transcend resistance, toxicity, and high costs. Our multicentric international collaborative team focuses on developing multistage antimalarials that exhibit novel mechanisms of action. Here, we describe the design, synthesis, and evaluation of a novel multistage antimalarial compound, 'Calxinin'. A compound that consists of hydroxyethylamine (HEA) and trifluoromethyl-benzyl-piperazine. Calxinin exhibits potent inhibitory activity in the nanomolar range against the asexual blood stages of drug-sensitive (3D7), multidrug-resistant (Dd2), artemisinin-resistant (IPC4912), and fresh Kenyan field isolated Plasmodium falciparum strains. Calxinin treatment resulted in diminished maturation of parasite sexual precursor cells (gametocytes) accompanied by distorted parasite morphology. Further, in vitro liver-stage testing with a mouse model showed reduced parasite load at an IC50 of 79 nM. A single dose (10 mg/kg) of Calxinin resulted in a 30% reduction in parasitemia in mice infected with a chloroquine-resistant strain of the rodent parasite P. berghei. The ex vivo ookinete inhibitory concentration within mosquito gut IC50 was 150 nM. Cellular in vitro toxicity assays in the primary and immortalized human cell lines did not show cytotoxicity. A computational protein target identification pipeline identified a putative P. falciparum membrane protein (Pf3D7_1313500) involved in parasite calcium (Ca2+) homeostasis as a potential Calxinin target. This highly conserved protein is related to the family of transient receptor potential cation channels (TRP-ML). Target validation experiments showed that exposure of parasitized RBCs (pRBCs) to Calxinin induces a rapid release of intracellular Ca2+ from pRBCs; leaving de-calcinated parasites trapped in RBCs. Overall, we demonstrated that Calxinin is a promising antimalarial lead compound with a novel mechanism of action and with potential therapeutic, prophylactic, and transmission-blocking properties against parasites resistant to current antimalarials.
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Key words
antimalarial, multistage activity, Ca2+ homeostasis, transient receptor potential mucolipin like channel, electron microscopy, field isolates
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