Given the rise of parasite resistance to all currently used antimalarial drugs, the identification of novel chemotypes with unique mechanisms of action is of paramount importance. Since Plasmodium expresses a number of aspartic proteases necessary for its survival, we have mined antimalarial datasets for drug-like aspartic protease inhibitors. This effort led to the identification of spiropiperidine hydantoins, bearing similarity to known inhibitors of the human aspartic protease β-secretase (BACE), as new leads for antimalarial drug discovery. Spiropiperidine hydantoins have a dynamic structure-activity relationship profile with positions identified as being tolerant of a variety of substitution patterns as well as a key piperidine N-benzyl phenol pharmacophore. Lead compounds 4e (CWHM-123) and 12k (CWHM-505) are potent antimalarials with IC50 values against Plasmodium falciparum 3D7 of 0.310 μM and 0.099 μM, respectively, and the former features equivalent potency on the chloroquine-resistant Dd2 strain. Remarkably, these compounds do not inhibit human aspartic proteases BACE, cathepsins D and E, or Plasmodium plasmepsins II and IV despite their similarity to known BACE inhibitors. Although the current leads suffer from poor metabolic stability, they do fit into a drug-like chemical property space and provide a new class of potent antimalarial agents for further study.
Keywords: Antimalarial; Antiplasmodial; Aspartic protease inhibitors; Spiropiperidine hydantoins.
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