Plasmodium falciparum purine nucleoside phosphorylase is critical for viability of malaria parasites

Dennis C. Madrid, Li Min Ting, Karena L. Waller, Vern L. Schramm, Kami Kim

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68 Scopus citations


Human malaria infections resulting from Plasmodium falciparum have become increasingly difficult to treat due to the emergence of drug-resistant parasites. The P. falciparum purine salvage enzyme purine nucleoside phosphorylase (PfPNP) is a potential drug target. Previous studies, in which PfPNP was targeted by transition state analogue inhibitors, found that those inhibiting human PNP and PfPNPs killed P. falciparum in vitro. However, many drugs have off-target interactions, and genetic evidence is required to demonstrate single target action for this class of potential drugs. We used targeted gene disruption in P. falciparum strain 3D7 to ablate PNP expression, yielding transgenic 3D7 parasites (Δpfpnp). Lysates of the Δpfpnp parasites showed no PNP activity, but activity of another purine salvage enzyme, adenosine deaminase (PfADA), was normal. When compared with wild-type 3D7, the Δpfpnp parasites showed a greater requirement for exogenous purines and a severe growth defect at physiological concentrations of hypoxanthine. Drug assays using immucillins, specific transition state inhibitors of PNP, were performed on wild-type and Δpfpnp parasites. The Δpfpnp parasites were more sensitive to PNP inhibitors that bound hPNP tighter and less sensitive to MT-ImmH, an inhibitor with 100-fold preference for PfPNP over hPNP. The results demonstrate the importance of purine salvage in P. falciparum and validate PfPNP as the target of immucillins.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)35899-35907
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number51
StatePublished - Dec 19 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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