Stereo-Defined Acyclic Nucleoside Phosphonates are Selective and Potent Inhibitors of Parasite 6-Oxopurine Phosphoribosyltransferases

J Med Chem. 2022 Mar 10;65(5):4030-4057. doi: 10.1021/acs.jmedchem.1c01881. Epub 2022 Feb 17.


Pathogens such as Plasmodium and Trypanosoma spp. are unable to synthesize purine nucleobases. They rely on the salvage of these purines and their nucleosides from the host cell to synthesize the purine nucleotides required for DNA/RNA production. The key enzymes in this pathway are purine phosphoribosyltransferases (PRTs). Here, we synthesized 16 novel acyclic nucleoside phosphonates, 12 with a chiral center at C-2', and eight bearing a second chiral center at C-6'. Of these, bisphosphonate (S,S)-48 is the most potent inhibitor of the Plasmodium falciparum and P. vivax 6-oxopurine PRTs and the most potent inhibitor of two Trypanosoma brucei (Tbr) 6-oxopurine PRTs yet discovered, with Ki values as low as 2 nM. Crystal structures of (S,S)-48 in complex with human and Tbr 6-oxopurine PRTs show that the inhibitor binds to the enzymes in different conformations, providing an explanation for its potency and selectivity (i.e., 35-fold in favor of the parasite enzymes).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antimalarials* / pharmacology
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / chemistry
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Nucleosides / chemistry
  • Nucleosides / pharmacology
  • Organophosphonates* / chemistry
  • Organophosphonates* / pharmacology
  • Parasites*
  • Pentosyltransferases / metabolism*
  • Plasmodium falciparum
  • Purinones


  • Antimalarials
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Nucleosides
  • Organophosphonates
  • Purinones
  • Pentosyltransferases