N-Myristoylation as a Drug Target in Malaria: Exploring the Role of N-Myristoyltransferase Substrates in the Inhibitor Mode of Action

ACS Infect Dis. 2018 Apr 13;4(4):449-457. doi: 10.1021/acsinfecdis.7b00203. Epub 2018 Feb 2.


Malaria continues to be a significant cause of death and morbidity worldwide, and there is a need for new antimalarial drugs with novel targets. We have focused as a potential target for drug development on N-myristoyl transferase (NMT), an enzyme that acylates a wide range of substrate proteins. The NMT substrates in Plasmodium falciparum include some proteins that are common to processes in eukaryotes such as secretory transport and others that are unique to apicomplexan parasites. Myristoylation facilitates a protein interaction with membranes that may be strengthened by further lipidation, and the inhibition of NMT results in incorrect protein localization and the consequent disruption of function. The diverse roles of NMT substrates mean that NMT inhibition has a pleiotropic and severe impact on parasite development, growth, and multiplication. To study the mode of action underlying NMT inhibition, it is important to consider the function of proteins upstream and downstream of NMT. In this work, we therefore present our current perspective on the different functions of known NMT substrates as well as compare the inhibition of cotranslational myristoylation to the inhibition of known targets upstream of NMT.

Keywords: N-myristoyl transferase; NMT; acyl transferase; chemical proteomics; myristoylation; palmitoylation; post-translational modification; protein lipidation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acyltransferases / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Antimalarials / isolation & purification*
  • Antimalarials / pharmacology*
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / isolation & purification*
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Plasmodium falciparum / drug effects*
  • Plasmodium falciparum / enzymology*
  • Plasmodium falciparum / physiology
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational
  • Protozoan Proteins / metabolism


  • Antimalarials
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Protozoan Proteins
  • Acyltransferases
  • glycylpeptide N-tetradecanoyltransferase