Human African trypanosomiasis (HAT) is a fatal infectious disease caused by the eukaryotic pathogen Trypanosoma brucei (Tb). Available treatments are difficult to administer and have significant safety issues. S-Adenosylmethionine decarboxylase (AdoMetDC) is an essential enzyme in the parasite polyamine biosynthetic pathway. Previous attempts to develop TbAdoMetDC inhibitors into anti-HAT therapies failed due to poor brain exposure. Here, we describe a large screening campaign of two small-molecule libraries (∼400,000 compounds) employing a new high-throughput (∼7 s per sample) mass spectrometry-based assay for AdoMetDC activity. As a result of primary screening, followed by hit confirmation and validation, we identified 13 new classes of reversible TbAdoMetDC inhibitors with low-micromolar potency (IC50) against both TbAdoMetDC and T. brucei parasite cells. The majority of these compounds were >10-fold selective against the human enzyme. Importantly, compounds from four classes demonstrated high propensity to cross the blood-brain barrier in a cell monolayer assay. Biochemical analysis demonstrated that compounds from eight classes inhibited intracellular TbAdoMetDC in the parasite, although evidence for a secondary off-target component was also present. The discovery of several new TbAdoMetDC inhibitor chemotypes provides new hits for lead optimization programs aimed to deliver a novel treatment for HAT.
Keywords: AdoMetDC; Trypanosoma brucei; high-throughput screening; human African trypanosomiasis; mass spectrometry.