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      The Susceptibility of Trypanosomatid Pathogens to PI3/mTOR Kinase Inhibitors Affords a New Opportunity for Drug Repurposing

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          Target repurposing utilizes knowledge of “druggable” targets obtained in one organism and exploits this information to pursue new potential drug targets in other organisms. Here we describe such studies to evaluate whether inhibitors targeting the kinase domain of the mammalian Target of Rapamycin (mTOR) and human phosphoinositide-3-kinases (PI3Ks) show promise against the kinetoplastid parasites Trypanosoma brucei, T. cruzi, Leishmania major, and L. donovani. The genomes of trypanosomatids encode at least 12 proteins belonging to the PI3K protein superfamily, some of which are unique to parasites. Moreover, the shared PI3Ks differ greatly in sequence from those of the human host, thereby providing opportunities for selective inhibition.

          Methodology/Principal Findings

          We focused on 8 inhibitors targeting mTOR and/or PI3Ks selected from various stages of pre-clinical and clinical development, and tested them against in vitro parasite cultures and in vivo models of infection. Several inhibitors showed micromolar or better efficacy against these organisms in culture. One compound, NVP-BEZ235, displayed sub-nanomolar potency, efficacy against cultured parasites, and an ability to clear parasitemia in an animal model of T. brucei rhodesiense infection.


          These studies strongly suggest that mammalian PI3/TOR kinase inhibitors are a productive starting point for anti-trypanosomal drug discovery. Our data suggest that NVP-BEZ235, an advanced clinical candidate against solid tumors, merits further investigation as an agent for treating African sleeping sickness.

          Author Summary

          In our study we describe the potency of established phosphoinositide-3-kinase (PI3K) and mammalian Target of Rapamycin (mTOR) kinase inhibitors against three trypanosomatid parasites: Trypanosoma brucei, T. cruzi, and Leishmania sp., which are the causative agents for African sleeping sickness, Chagas disease, and leishmaniases, respectively. We noted that these parasites and humans express similar kinase enzymes. Since these similar human targets have been pursued by the drug industry for many years in the discovery of cellular growth and proliferation inhibitors, compounds developed as human anti-cancer agents should also have effect on inhibiting growth and proliferation of the parasites. With that in mind, we selected eight established PI3K and mTOR inhibitors for profiling against these pathogens. Among these inhibitors is an advanced clinical candidate against cancer, NVP-BEZ235, which we demonstrate to be a highly potent trypanocide in parasite cultures, and in a mouse model of T. brucei infection. Additionally, we describe observations of these inhibitors' effects on parasite growth and other cellular characteristics.

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          Most cited references 59

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          Visceral leishmaniasis: what are the needs for diagnosis, treatment and control?

          Visceral leishmaniasis (VL) is a systemic protozoan disease that is transmitted by phlebotomine sandflies. Poor and neglected populations in East Africa and the Indian sub-continent are particularly affected. Early and accurate diagnosis and treatment remain key components of VL control. In addition to improved diagnostic tests, accurate and simple tests are needed to identify treatment failures. Miltefosine, paromomycin and liposomal amphotericin B are gradually replacing pentavalent antimonials and conventional amphotericin B as the preferred treatments in some regions, but in other areas these drugs are still being evaluated in both mono- and combination therapies. New diagnostic tools and new treatment strategies will only have an impact if they are made widely available to patients.
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            A specific inhibitor of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase, 2-(4-morpholinyl)-8-phenyl-4H-1-benzopyran-4-one (LY294002).

            Phosphatidylinositol (PtdIns) 3-kinase is an enzyme implicated in growth factor signal transduction by associating with receptor and nonreceptor tyrosine kinases, including the platelet-derived growth factor receptor. Inhibitors of PtdIns 3-kinase could potentially give a better understanding of the function and regulatory mechanisms of the enzyme. Quercetin, a naturally occurring bioflavinoid, was previously shown to inhibit PtdIns 3-kinase with an IC50 of 1.3 microgram/ml (3.8 microM); inhibition appeared to be directed at the ATP-binding site of the kinase. Analogs of quercetin were investigated as PtdIns 3-kinase inhibitors, with the most potent ones exhibiting IC50 values in the range of 1.7-8.4 micrograms/ml. In contrast, genistein, a potent tyrosine kinase inhibitor of the isoflavone class, did not inhibit PtdIns 3-kinase significantly (IC50 > 30 micrograms/ml). Since quercetin has also been shown to inhibit other PtdIns and protein kinases, other chromones were evaluated as inhibitors of PtdIns 3-kinase without affecting PtdIns 4-kinase or selected protein kinases. One such compound, 2-(4-morpholinyl)-8-phenyl-4H-1-benzopyran-4-one (also known as 2-(4-morpholinyl)-8-phenylchromone, LY294002), completely and specifically abolished PtdIns 3-kinase activity (IC50 = 0.43 microgram/ml; 1.40 microM) but did not inhibit PtdIns 4-kinase or tested protein and lipid kinases. Analogs of LY294002 demonstrated a very selective structure-activity relationship, with slight changes in structure causing marked decreases in inhibition. LY294002 was shown to completely abolish PtdIns 3-kinase activity in fMet-Leu-Phe-stimulated human neutrophils, as well as inhibit proliferation of smooth muscle cells in cultured rabbit aortic segments. Since PtdIns 3-kinase appears to be centrally involved with growth factor signal transduction, the development of specific inhibitors against the kinase may be beneficial in the treatment of proliferative diseases as well as in elucidating the biological role of the kinase in cellular proliferation and growth factor response.
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              Identification and characterization of NVP-BEZ235, a new orally available dual phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase/mammalian target of rapamycin inhibitor with potent in vivo antitumor activity.

              The phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt/mammalian target of rapamycin inhibitor (mTOR) pathway is often constitutively activated in human tumor cells, providing unique opportunities for anticancer therapeutic intervention. NVP-BEZ235 is an imidazo[4,5-c]quinoline derivative that inhibits PI3K and mTOR kinase activity by binding to the ATP-binding cleft of these enzymes. In cellular settings using human tumor cell lines, this molecule is able to effectively and specifically block the dysfunctional activation of the PI3K pathway, inducing G(1) arrest. The cellular activity of NVP-BEZ235 translates well in in vivo models of human cancer. Thus, the compound was well tolerated, displayed disease stasis when administered orally, and enhanced the efficacy of other anticancer agents when used in in vivo combination studies. Ex vivo pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic analyses of tumor tissues showed a time-dependent correlation between compound concentration and PI3K/Akt pathway inhibition. Collectively, the preclinical data show that NVP-BEZ235 is a potent dual PI3K/mTOR modulator with favorable pharmaceutical properties. NVP-BEZ235 is currently in phase I clinical trials.

                Author and article information

                Role: Editor
                PLoS Negl Trop Dis
                PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
                August 2011
                23 August 2011
                : 5
                : 8
                [1 ]Instituto de Parasitología y Biomedicina “López-Neyra” Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas, Granada, Spain
                [2 ]Department of Medicine-Division of Infectious Diseases, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri, United States of America
                [3 ]Division of Medical Parasitology, Department of Microbiology, New York University School of Medicine, New York, New York, United States of America
                [4 ]Department of Molecular Microbiology, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri, United States of America
                [5 ]Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America
                George Washington University, United States of America
                Author notes

                Conceived and designed the experiments: SMB RD-G CEK FMK MN MPP CG-R AR LMS. Performed the experiments: RD-G CEK FMK CG-R LMS MS. Analyzed the data: RD-G CEK FMK CG-R LMS MS. Wrote the paper: SMB MS MPP AR.

                Diaz-Gonzalez et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
                Page count
                Pages: 11
                Research Article
                Molecular Cell Biology
                Signal Transduction
                Signaling Cascades
                Protein Kinase Signaling Cascade
                Medicinal Chemistry
                Infectious Diseases
                Neglected Tropical Diseases
                African Trypanosomiasis
                Chagas Disease
                Parasitic Diseases
                African Trypanosomiasis
                Chagas Disease

                Infectious disease & Microbiology


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