Bisphosphonates (BPs) are a class of compounds that have been used extensively in the treatment of osteoporosis and malignancy-related hypercalcemia. Some of these compounds act through inhibition of farnesyl diphosphate synthase (FPPS), a key enzyme in the synthesis of isoprenoids. Recently, nitrogen-containing bisphosphonates (N-BPs) used in bone resorption therapy have been shown to be active against Trypanosoma cruzi, the parasite that causes American trypanosomiasis (Chagas disease), suggesting that they may be used as anti-trypanosomal agents. The crystal structures of TcFPPS in complex with substrate (isopentenyl diphosphate, IPP) and five N-BP inhibitors show that the C-1 hydroxyl and the nitrogen-containing groups of the inhibitors alter the binding of IPP and the conformation of two TcFPPS residues, Tyr94 and Gln167. Isothermal titration calorimetry experiments suggest that binding of the first N-BPs to the homodimeric TcFPPS changes the binding properties of the second site. This mechanism of binding of N-BPs to TcFPPS is different to that reported for the binding of the same compounds to human FPPS. Proteins 2010. (c) 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.