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A Pyridyl-Furan Series Developed from the Open Global Health Library Block Red Blood Cell Invasion and Protein Trafficking in <i>Plasmodium falciparum</i> through Potential Inhibition of the Parasite's PI4KIIIB Enzyme.

Ling DB, Nguyen W, Looker O, Razook Z, McCann K, Barry AE, Scheurer C, Wittlin S, Famodimu MT, Delves MJ, Bullen HE, Crabb BS, Sleebs BE, Gilson PR

  • Journal ACS infectious diseases

  • Published 28 Aug 2023

  • Volume 9

  • ISSUE 9

  • Pagination 1695-1710

  • DOI 10.1021/acsinfecdis.3c00138


With the resistance increasing to current antimalarial medicines, there is an urgent need to discover new drug targets and to develop new medicines against these targets. We therefore screened the Open Global Health Library of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, of 250 compounds against the asexual blood stage of the deadliest malarial parasite Plasmodium falciparum, from which eight inhibitors with low micromolar potency were found. Due to its combined potencies against parasite growth and inhibition of red blood cell invasion, the pyridyl-furan compound OGHL250 was prioritized for further optimization. The potency of the series lead compound (WEHI-518) was improved 250-fold to low nanomolar levels against parasite blood-stage growth. Parasites selected for resistance to a related compound, MMV396797, were also resistant to WEHI-518 as well as KDU731, an inhibitor of the phosphatidylinositol kinase PfPI4KIIIB, suggesting that this kinase is the target of the pyridyl-furan series. Inhibition of PfPI4KIIIB blocks multiple stages of the parasite's life cycle and other potent inhibitors are currently under preclinical development. MMV396797-resistant parasites possess an E1316D mutation in PfPKI4IIIB that clusters with known resistance mutations of other inhibitors of the kinase. Building upon earlier studies that showed that PfPI4KIIIB inhibitors block the development of the invasive merozoite parasite stage, we show that members of the pyridyl-furan series also block invasion and/or the conversion of merozoites into ring-stage intracellular parasites through inhibition of protein secretion and export into red blood cells.