A study of the molecular regulation of trypanosomatid phosphofructokinases as drug targets

Authors: James R. H. Kinkead (University of Edinburgh)
Co-authored by industrial partner: No

Type: Thesis

State: Published (Approved)
Published: January 2018

Abstract: The trypanosomatid parasites T. brucei, T. cruzi and Leishmania spp. are responsible for the ‘neglected diseases’ Human African Trypanosomiasis, Chagas disease and Leishmaniasis respectively. In their human infective form in the bloodstream all three trypanosomatid parasites rely heavily on glycolysis for ATP production. Phosphofructokinase (PFK) catalyses the third step of the glycolytic pathway in all organisms using aerobic respiration. It facilitates the phospho transfer from ATP to fructose 6-phosphate (F6P) to make the products fructose 1,6- bisphosphate (F16BP) and ADP. RNAi knockout of T. brucei PFK has shown the enzyme is essential for survival of the bloodstream form parasites. Trypanosomatid PFKs have a unique set of structural and regulatory differences compared to the mammalian host enzyme. These differences, coupled with the availability of trypanosomatid PFK crystal structures present an opportunity for the structure-based design of specific inhibitors against the enzyme. Here we present an enzymatic characterisation of recombinant PFKs from T. brucei, T. cruzi and Leishmania infantum trypanosomatids, their regulation by the allosteric activator AMP, and their inhibition by drug-like inhibitor compounds. Inhibitor compounds (‘CTCB compounds’) were designed against T. brucei PFK with the aim of developing novel treatments against Human African Trypanosomiasis (HAT). We describe the testing, ranking and biophysical characterisation of these compounds as part of a Wellcome Trust Seeding Drug Discovery program. We found that CTCB inhibitor compounds bound to an allosteric pocket unique to trypanosomatid PFKs. We show that the compounds are specific; neither competing with the natural substrates ATP or F6P nor inhibiting the human PFK enzyme. We describe the development and testing of highly potent and specific low molecular weight PFK inhibitors that translate to both killing of cultured T. b. brucei parasites and a cure of stage I HAT in mice models. We describe the tight, 1:1 binding of these compounds with trypanosomatid PFKs, and the thermodynamic characteristics of binding through various biophysical assays. We also show the unprecedented characterisation of the reverse PFK reaction by trypanosomatid and human forms of the enzymes. We found that PFK can also carry out the reverse enzymatic reaction, under physiologically relevant concentrations of ADP and F16BP to produce F6P and ATP. We show that the reverse reaction is also subject to allosteric regulation by AMP, and can be inhibited by the CTCB compounds with a similar potency to the forward reaction. Finally, we describe the mechanism of allosteric activation by AMP and inhibition by the drug-like compounds against trypanosomatid PFKs.

Subject Areas: Biology and Bio-materials

Instruments: I04-Macromolecular Crystallography , I24-Microfocus Macromolecular Crystallography