Given the threat of drug resistance, there is an acute need for new classes of antimalarial agents that act via a unique mechanism of action relative to currently used drugs. We have identified a set of druglike compounds within the Tres Cantos Anti-Malarial Set (TCAMS) which likely act via inhibition of a Plasmodium aspartic protease. Structure-activity relationship analysis and optimization of these aminohydantoins demonstrate that these compounds are potent nanomolar inhibitors of the Plasmodium aspartic proteases PM-II and PM-IV and likely one or more other Plasmodium aspartic proteases. Incorporation of a bulky group, such as a cyclohexyl group, on the aminohydantion N-3 position gives enhanced antimalarial potency while reducing inhibition of human aspartic proteases such as BACE. We have identified compound 8p (CWHM-117) as a promising lead for optimization as an antimalarial drug with a low molecular weight, modest lipophilicity, oral bioavailability, and in vivo antimalarial activity in mice.
Keywords: Malaria; aminohydantoin; antimalarial; aspartic protease inhibitors; medicinal chemistry.