A Data-Driven Approach to Construct a Molecular Map of Trypanosoma cruzi to Identify Drugs and Vaccine Targets

Vaccines (Basel). 2023 Jan 26;11(2):267. doi: 10.3390/vaccines11020267.


Chagas disease (CD) is endemic in large parts of Central and South America, as well as in Texas and the southern regions of the United States. Successful parasites, such as the causative agent of CD, Trypanosoma cruzi have adapted to specific hosts during their phylogenesis. In this work, we have assembled an interactive network of the complex relations that occur between molecules within T. cruzi. An expert curation strategy was combined with a text-mining approach to screen 10,234 full-length research articles and over 200,000 abstracts relevant to T. cruzi. We obtained a scale-free network consisting of 1055 nodes and 874 edges, and composed of 838 proteins, 43 genes, 20 complexes, 9 RNAs, 36 simple molecules, 81 phenotypes, and 37 known pharmaceuticals. Further, we deployed an automated docking pipeline to conduct large-scale docking studies involving several thousand drugs and potential targets to identify network-based binding propensities. These experiments have revealed that the existing FDA-approved drugs benznidazole (Bz) and nifurtimox (Nf) show comparatively high binding energies to the T. cruzi network proteins (e.g., PIF1 helicase-like protein, trans-sialidase), when compared with control datasets consisting of proteins from other pathogens. We envisage this work to be of value to those interested in finding new vaccines for CD, as well as drugs against the T. cruzi parasite.

Keywords: Trypanosoma cruzi; chagas disease; drug target; gene ontology; pathways; system biology; vaccine targets.