A genome-wide screen identifies yeast genes required for protection against or enhanced cytotoxicity of the antimalarial drug quinine

Mol Genet Genomics. 2011 Dec;286(5-6):333-46. doi: 10.1007/s00438-011-0649-5. Epub 2011 Sep 30.


Quinine is used in the treatment of Plasmodium falciparum severe malaria. However, both the drug's mode of action and mechanisms of resistance are still poorly understood and subject to debate. In an effort to clarify these questions, we used the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae as a model for pharmacological studies with quinine. Following on a previous work that examined the yeast genomic expression program in response to quinine, we now explore a genome-wide screen for altered susceptibility to quinine using the EUROSCARF collection of yeast deletion strains. We identified 279 quinine-susceptible strains, among which 112 conferred a hyper-susceptibility phenotype. The expression of these genes, mainly involved in carbohydrate metabolism, iron uptake and ion homeostasis functions, is required for quinine resistance in yeast. Sixty-two genes whose deletion leads to increased quinine resistance were also identified in this screen, including several genes encoding ribosome protein subunits. These well-known potential drug targets in Plasmodium are associated with quinine action for the first time in this study. The suggested involvement of phosphate signaling and transport in quinine tolerance was also studied, and activation of phosphate starvation-responsive genes was observed under a mild-induced quinine stress. Finally, P. falciparum homology searches were performed for a selected group of 41 genes. Thirty-two encoded proteins possess homologs in the parasite, including subunits of a parasitic vacuolar H(+)-ATPase complex, ion and phosphate importers, and several ribosome protein subunits, suggesting that the results obtained in yeast are good candidates to be transposed and explored in a P. falciparum context.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antimalarials / pharmacology
  • Drug Resistance / genetics*
  • Genes, Fungal / physiology
  • Genome, Fungal / genetics*
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Plasmodium falciparum / genetics
  • Plasmodium falciparum / physiology
  • Quinine / pharmacology*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / genetics*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / physiology
  • Sequence Homology


  • Antimalarials
  • Quinine