Alkylation of proteins by artemisinin. Effects of heme, pH, and drug structure

Biochem Pharmacol. 1994 Aug 3;48(3):569-73. doi: 10.1016/0006-2952(94)90287-9.


Artemisinin and its derivatives are a promising new class of antimalarial agents containing an endoperoxide bridge. [14C]Artemisinin alkylated various proteins in vitro. Between 5 and 18% of added drug bound to hemoproteins such as catalase, cytochrome c, and hemoglobin. However, it did not react with heme-free globin. For catalase and hemoglobin, most of the drug reacted with the protein moiety rather than the heme. Artemisinin bound to human serum albumin (HSA) more efficiently at pH 8.6 than 7.4, more efficiently in Dulbecco's PBS than in Tris-HCl buffer, and better when HSA had been made fatty acid-free. Dihydroartemisinin also bound to HSA, whereas deoxyartemisinin, an inactive derivative, did not. There was no binding between DNA and artemisinin. These data provide insight into the mechanism of the reaction between artemisinin and proteins.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Alkylating Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antimalarials / pharmacology*
  • Artemisinins*
  • Blood Proteins / metabolism*
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal
  • Erythrocyte Membrane / metabolism
  • Heme / isolation & purification
  • Heme / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Serum Albumin / metabolism
  • Sesquiterpenes / pharmacology*
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Alkylating Agents
  • Antimalarials
  • Artemisinins
  • Blood Proteins
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal
  • Serum Albumin
  • Sesquiterpenes
  • Heme
  • artemisinin