Plasmodium parasites are responsible for the devastating disease malaria that affects hundreds of millions of people each year. Blood stage parasites establish new permeability pathways (NPPs) in infected red blood cell membranes to facilitate the uptake of nutrients and removal of parasite waste products. Pharmacological inhibition of the NPPs is expected to lead to nutrient starvation and accumulation of toxic metabolites resulting in parasite death. Here, we have screened a curated library of antimalarial compounds, the MMV Malaria Box, identifying two compounds that inhibit NPP function. Unexpectedly, metabolic profiling suggested that both compounds also inhibit dihydroorotate dehydrogense (DHODH), which is required for pyrimidine synthesis and is a validated drug target in its own right. Expression of yeast DHODH, which bypasses the need for the parasite DHODH, increased parasite resistance to these compounds. These studies identify two potential candidates for therapeutic development that simultaneously target two essential pathways in Plasmodium, NPP and DHODH.
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This work was supported by the Victorian Operational Infrastructure Support Program received by the Burnet
Institute. We acknowledge the Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) for providing access to the MMV Malaria
Box and the Australian Red Cross Blood Bank for the provision of human blood. B.E. is recipient of an Australian
Post Graduate Award. MJM is an NHMRC Principal Research Fellow. We thank Susan Charman for providing