In the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum, membrane glutathione S-transferases (GST) have recently emerged as potential cellular detoxifying units and as drug target candidates with the artemisinin (ART) class of antimalarials inhibiting their activity at single-digit nanomolar potency when activated by iron sources such as cytotoxic hematin. Here we put forward the hypothesis that the membrane GST Plasmodium falciparum exported protein 1 (PfEXP1, PF3D7_1121600) might be directly involved in the mode of action of the unrelated antimalarial 4-aminoquinoline drug chloroquine (CQ). Along this line we report potent biochemical inhibition of membrane glutathione S-transferase activity in recombinant PfEXP1 through CQ at half maximal inhibitory CQ concentrations of 9.02 nM and 19.33 nM when using hematin and the iron deficient 1-chloro-2,4-dinitrobenzene (CDNB) as substrate, respectively. Thus, in contrast to ART, CQ may not require activation through an iron source such as hematin for a potent inhibition of membrane GST activity. Arguably, these data represent the first instance of low nanomolar inhibition of an essential Plasmodium falciparum enzyme through a 4-aminoquinoline and might encourage further investigation of PfEXP1 as a potential CQ target candidate.
Keywords: Chloroquine; Drug targets; Malaria; Membrane proteins.
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