Plasmodium chaperonin TRiC/CCT identified as a target of the antihistamine clemastine using parallel chemoproteomic strategy

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2020 Mar 17;117(11):5810-5817. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1913525117. Epub 2020 Mar 3.


The antihistamine clemastine inhibits multiple stages of the Plasmodium parasite that causes malaria, but the molecular targets responsible for its parasite inhibition were unknown. Here, we applied parallel chemoproteomic platforms to discover the mechanism of action of clemastine and identify that clemastine binds to the Plasmodium falciparum TCP-1 ring complex or chaperonin containing TCP-1 (TRiC/CCT), an essential heterooligomeric complex required for de novo cytoskeletal protein folding. Clemastine destabilized all eight P. falciparum TRiC subunits based on thermal proteome profiling (TPP). Further analysis using stability of proteins from rates of oxidation (SPROX) revealed a clemastine-induced thermodynamic stabilization of the Plasmodium TRiC delta subunit, suggesting an interaction with this protein subunit. We demonstrate that clemastine reduces levels of the major TRiC substrate tubulin in P. falciparum parasites. In addition, clemastine treatment leads to disorientation of Plasmodium mitotic spindles during the asexual reproduction and results in aberrant tubulin morphology suggesting protein aggregation. This clemastine-induced disruption of TRiC function is not observed in human host cells, demonstrating a species selectivity required for targeting an intracellular human pathogen. Our findings encourage larger efforts to apply chemoproteomic methods to assist in target identification of antimalarial drugs and highlight the potential to selectively target Plasmodium TRiC-mediated protein folding for malaria intervention.

Keywords: Plasmodium; TRiC/CCT; chemoproteomic; clemastine; malaria.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Binding Sites
  • Cell Line
  • Chaperonin Containing TCP-1 / chemistry
  • Chaperonin Containing TCP-1 / metabolism*
  • Clemastine / pharmacology*
  • Histamine Antagonists / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Plasmodium falciparum / drug effects
  • Plasmodium falciparum / metabolism
  • Protein Binding
  • Protozoan Proteins / chemistry
  • Protozoan Proteins / metabolism*
  • Spindle Apparatus / drug effects


  • Histamine Antagonists
  • Protozoan Proteins
  • Clemastine
  • Chaperonin Containing TCP-1