Indel-based targeting of essential proteins in human pathogens that have close host orthologue(s): discovery of selective inhibitors for Leishmania donovani elongation factor-1alpha.

Research paper by Devki D Nandan, Martin M Lopez, Fuqiang F Ban, Meilan M Huang, Yvonne Y Li, Neil E NE Reiner, Artem A Cherkasov

Indexed on: 24 Jan '07Published on: 24 Jan '07Published in: Proteins: Structure, Function, and Bioinformatics


We propose a novel strategy for selective targeting of essential pathogen proteins that contain sizable indels (insertions/deletions) in their sequences compared with their host orthologues. This approach has been tested on elongation factor-1alpha (EF-1alpha) from the protozoan pathogen Leishmania donovani. Leishmania EF-1alpha is 82% identical to the corresponding human orthologue, but possesses a 12 aminoacid sequence deletion compared with human EF-1alpha. We used this indel-differentiated region to design small molecules that selectively bind to leishmania EF-1alpha and not to the human protein. Three unrelated molecules were identified with the capacity to inhibit protein synthesis in leishmania by up to 75% while exhibiting no effect on human protein translation. These candidates may serve as prototypes for future development of antiprotozoan therapeutics. More generally, these findings provide a basis for a novel drug design platform. This platform targets essential pathogen proteins that are highly conserved across species, and consequently would not typically be considered to be conventional drug targets. We anticipate that such indel-directed targeting of essential proteins in microbial pathogens may help address the growing problem of antibiotic resistance.