Natural Product Inspired Novel Indole based Chiral Scaffold Kills Human Malaria Parasites via Ionic Imbalance Mediated Cell Death

Sci Rep. 2019 Nov 28;9(1):17785. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-54339-z.


Natural products offer an abundant source of diverse novel scaffolds that inspires development of next generation anti-malarials. With this vision, a library of scaffolds inspired by natural biologically active alkaloids was synthesized from chiral bicyclic lactams with steps/scaffold ratio of 1.7:1. On evaluation of library of scaffolds for their growth inhibitory effect against malaria parasite we found one scaffold with IC50 in low micro molar range. It inhibited parasite growth via disruption of Na+ homeostasis. P-type ATPase, PfATP4 is responsible for maintaining parasite Na+ homeostasis and is a good target for anti-malarials. Molecular docking with our scaffold showed that it fits well in the binding pocket of PfATP4. Moreover, inhibition of Na+-dependent ATPase activity by our potent scaffold suggests that it targets parasite by inhibiting PfATP4, leading to ionic imbalance. However how ionic imbalance attributes to parasite's death is unclear. We show that ionic imbalance caused by scaffold 7 induces autophagy that leads to onset of apoptosis in the parasite evident by the loss of mitochondrial membrane potential (ΔΨm) and DNA degradation. Our study provides a novel strategy for drug discovery and an insight into the molecular mechanism of ionic imbalance mediated death in malaria parasite.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphatases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Adenosine Triphosphatases / metabolism
  • Antimalarials / chemistry*
  • Antimalarials / pharmacology*
  • Drug Design
  • Drug Discovery
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / chemistry
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Indoles / chemistry*
  • Indoles / pharmacology*
  • Malaria / drug therapy*
  • Malaria, Falciparum / drug therapy
  • Models, Molecular
  • Plasmodium falciparum / drug effects*
  • Plasmodium falciparum / enzymology
  • Plasmodium falciparum / growth & development


  • Antimalarials
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Indoles
  • Adenosine Triphosphatases