The plastid-like organelle of apicomplexan parasites as drug target

Curr Pharm Des. 2008;14(9):855-71. doi: 10.2174/138161208784041105.


Apicomplexan parasites infectious to humans include Plasmodium spp., Babesia spp., Toxoplasma gondii, Cryptosporidium spp., Isospora belli and Cyclospora cayetanensis. With exception of Cryptosporidium spp., these parasites possess a non-photosynthetic plastid-like organelle called apicoplast. The apicoplast possesses a small circular genome and harbours prokaryotic-type biochemical pathways. As the most important metabolic functions, the mevalonate independent 1-deoxy-D-xylulose 5-phosphate pathway of isoprenoid synthesis and the type II fatty acid synthesis system are operative inside the apicoplast. Classical antibacterial drugs such as ciprofloxacin, tetracycline, doxycycline, clindamycin and spiramycin inhibit the apicoplast-located gyrase and translation machinery, respectively, and are currently used in the clinic for the treatment of infections with apicomplexan parasites. As an inhibitor of isoprenoid synthesis, fosmidomycin was proven to be effective against acute P. falciparum malaria in clinical phase II studies. Triclosan, an inhibitor of fatty acid synthesis, was active in a malaria mouse model. In vitro antimalarial activity was shown for inhibitors of peptide deformylase and the import of apicoplast-targeted proteins. Work on various other inhibitors of apicoplast-located biochemical processes is ongoing.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology
  • Antiprotozoal Agents / pharmacology*
  • Apicomplexa / drug effects*
  • Apicomplexa / metabolism
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Drug Delivery Systems
  • Humans
  • Organelles / drug effects
  • Organelles / metabolism
  • Protozoan Infections / drug therapy*
  • Protozoan Infections / metabolism


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Antiprotozoal Agents