Inhibition of PfMYST Histone Acetyltransferase Activity Blocks Plasmodium falciparum Growth and Survival

Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2020 Dec 16;65(1):e00953-20. doi: 10.1128/AAC.00953-20. Print 2020 Dec 16.


One of the major barriers in the prevention and control of malaria programs worldwide is the growing emergence of multidrug resistance in Plasmodium parasites, and this necessitates continued efforts to discover and develop effective drug molecules targeting novel proteins essential for parasite survival. In recent years, epigenetic regulators have evolved as an attractive drug target option owing to their crucial role in survival and development of Plasmodium at different stages of its life cycle. PfMYST, a histone acetyltransferase protein, is known to regulate key cellular processes, such as cell cycle progression, DNA damage repair, and antigenic variation, that facilitate parasite growth, adaptation, and survival inside its host. With the aim of assessing the therapeutic potential of PfMYST as a novel drug target, we examined the effect of NU9056 (an HsTIP60 inhibitor) on the rate of parasite growth and survival. In the present study, by using a yeast complementation assay, we established that PfMYST is a true homolog of TIP60 and showed that NU9056 can inhibit PfMYST catalytic activity and kill P. falciparum parasites in culture. Inhibiting the catalytic activity of PfMYST arrests the parasite in the trophozoite stage and inhibits its further transition to the schizont stage, eventually leading to its death. Overall, our study provides proof of concept that PfMYST catalytic activity is essential for parasite growth and survival and that PfMYST can be a potential target for antimalarial therapy.

Keywords: HAT assay; NU9056; PfMYST; Plasmodium; Plasmodium falciparum; TIP60; malaria.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetylation
  • Animals
  • Antimalarials* / pharmacology
  • Erythrocytes / metabolism
  • Histone Acetyltransferases / genetics
  • Histone Acetyltransferases / metabolism
  • Malaria, Falciparum*
  • Plasmodium falciparum / genetics
  • Plasmodium falciparum / metabolism
  • Protozoan Proteins / genetics
  • Protozoan Proteins / metabolism
  • Schizonts / metabolism


  • Antimalarials
  • Protozoan Proteins
  • Histone Acetyltransferases