Central to malaria pathogenesis is the invasion of human red blood cells by Plasmodium falciparum parasites. Following each cycle of intracellular development and replication, parasites activate a cellular program to egress from their current host cell and invade a new one. The orchestration of this process critically relies upon numerous organised phospho-signaling cascades, which are mediated by a number of central kinases. Parasite kinases are emerging as novel antimalarial targets as they have diverged sufficiently from their mammalian counterparts to allow selectable therapeutic action. Parasite protein kinase A (PfPKA) is highly expressed late in the cell cycle of the parasite blood stage and has been shown to phosphorylate a critical invasion protein, Apical Membrane Antigen 1. This enzyme could therefore be a valuable drug target so we have repurposed a substituted 4-cyano-3-methylisoquinoline that has been shown to inhibit rat PKA with the goal of targeting PfPKA. We synthesised a novel series of compounds and, although many potently inhibit the growth of chloroquine sensitive and resistant strains of P. falciparum, they were found to have minimal activity against PfPKA, indicating that they likely have another target important to parasite cytokinesis and invasion.
This work was supported by grants from the National Health
and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) of Australia. The
authors gratefully acknowledge the contribution of the Victorian
Operational Infrastructure Support Program, Australia
received by the Burnet Institute and Monash Micro Imaging.