Predicting functional residues in Plasmodium falciparum plasmepsins by combining sequence and structural analysis with molecular dynamics simulations.

Facultad de Biología, Centro de Estudios de Proteínas (CEP), Universidad de La Habana, Cuba.
Proteins Structure Function and Bioinformatics (Impact Factor: 3.34). 05/2008; 73(2):440-57. DOI: 10.1002/prot.22068
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Plasmepsins are aspartic proteases involved in the initial steps of the hemoglobin degradation pathway, a critical stage in the Plasmodium falciparum life cycle during human infection. Thus, they are attractive targets for novel therapeutic compounds to treat malaria, which remains one of the world's biggest health problems. The three-dimensional structures available for P. falciparum plasmepsins II and IV make structure-based drug design of antimalarial compounds that focus on inhibiting plasmepsins possible. However, the structural flexibility of the plasmepsin active site cavity combined with insufficient knowledge of the functional residues and of those determining the specificity of parasitic enzymes is a drawback when designing specific inhibitors. In this study, we have combined a sequence and structural analysis with molecular dynamics simulations to predict the functional residues in P. falciparum plasmepsins. The careful analysis of X-ray structures and 3D models carried out here suggests that residues Y17, V105, T108, L191, L242, Q275, and T298 are important for plasmepsin function. These seven amino acids are conserved across the malarial strains but not in human aspartic proteases. Residues V105 and T108 are localized in a flap of an interior pocket and they only establish contacts with a specific non-peptide achiral inhibitor. We also observed a rapid conformational change in the L3 region of plasmepsins that closes the active site of the enzyme, which explains earlier experimental findings. These results shed light on the role of V105 and T108 residues in plasmepsin specificities, and they should be useful in structure-based design of novel, selective inhibitors that may serve as antimalarial drugs.

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