Purine-less death in Plasmodium falciparum induced by immucillin-H, a transition state analogue of purine nucleoside phosphorylase

Gregory A. Kicska, Peter C. Tyler, Gary B. Evans, Richard H. Furneaux, Vern L. Schramm, Kami Kim

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119 Scopus citations


Plasmodium falciparum is responsible for the majority of life-threatening cases of malaria. Plasmodia species cannot synthesize purines de novo, whereas mammalian cells obtain purines from de novo synthesis or by purine salvage. Hypoxanthine is proposed to be the major source of purines for P. falciparum growth. It is produced from inosine phosphorolysis by purine nucleoside phosphorylase (PNP). Immucillins are powerful transition state analogue inhibitors of mammalian PNP and also inhibit P. falciparum PNP as illustrated in the accompanying article (Kicska, G. A., Tyler, P. C., Evans, G. B., Furneaux, R. H., Kim, K., and Schramm, V. L. (2002) J. Biol. Chem. 277, 3219-3225). This work tests the hypothesis that erythrocyte and P. falciparum PNP are essential elements for growth and survival of the parasite in culture. Immucillin-H reduces the incorporation of inosine but not hypoxanthine into nucleic acids of P. falciparum and kills P. falciparum cultured in human erythrocytes with an IC50 of 35 nM. Growth inhibition by Imm-H is reversed by the addition of hypoxanthine but not inosine, demonstrating the metabolic block at PNP. The concentration of Imm-H required for inhibition of parasite growth varies as a function of culture hematocrit, reflecting stoichiometric titration of human erythrocyte PNP by the inhibitor. Human and P. falciparum PNPs demonstrate different specificity for inhibition by immucillins, with the 2′-deoxy analogues showing marked preference for the human enzyme. The 1C50 values for immucillin analogue toxicity to P. falciparum cultures indicate that inhibition of PNP in both the erythrocytes and the parasite is necessary to induce a purine-less death.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3226-3231
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number5
StatePublished - Feb 1 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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