With the aim to clarify the mechanism(s) of action of nitroaromatic compounds against the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum, we examined the single-electron reduction by P. falciparum ferredoxin:NADP+ oxidoreductase (PfFNR) of a series of nitrofurans and nitrobenzenes (n = 23), and their ability to inhibit P. falciparum glutathione reductase (PfGR). The reactivity of nitroaromatics in PfFNR-catalyzed reactions increased with their single-electron reduction midpoint potential (E17). Nitroaromatic compounds acted as non- or uncompetitive inhibitors towards PfGR with respect to NADPH and glutathione substrates. Using multiparameter regression analysis, we found that the in vitro activity of these compounds against P. falciparum strain FcB1 increased with their E17 values, octanol/water distribution coefficients at pH 7.0 (log D), and their activity as PfGR inhibitors. Our data demonstrate that both factors, the ease of reductive activation and the inhibition of PfGR, are important in the antiplasmodial in vitro activity of nitroaromatics. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first quantitative demonstration of this kind of relationship. No correlation between antiplasmodial activity and ability to inhibit human erythrocyte GR was detected in tested nitroaromatics. Our data suggest that the efficacy of prooxidant antiparasitic agents may be achieved through their combined action, namely inhibition of antioxidant NADPH:disulfide reductases, and the rapid reduction by single-electron transferring dehydrogenases-electrontransferases.
Keywords: Plasmodium falciparum; enzyme inhibition; ferredoxin:NADP+ oxidoreductase; glutathione reductase; nitroaromatics.