Trypanosoma brucei is the causative agent of African sleeping sickness, putting at risk up to 50 million people in sub-Saharan Africa. Current drug therapies are limited by toxicity and difficult treatment regimes and as the development of vaccines remains unlikely, the identification of better drugs to control this deadly disease is needed. Strategies for the identification of new lead compounds include phenotypic screening or target-based approaches. Implementation of the latter has been hampered by the lack of defined targets that are both essential and druggable. In this issue of Molecular Microbiology, Jones etal. report on the characterization of T.brucei pyridoxal kinase (PdxK), an enzyme required for the salvage of vitamin B6, an essential enzymatic cofactor. Genetic knock-down and small molecule inhibitor studies were used to demonstrate that PdxK is essential for parasite growth both in vitro and in a mouse model, providing both genetic and chemical validation of the target. An enzyme assay compatible with high-throughput screening (HTS) was developed and the X-ray crystal structure solved, showing the potential for species selective inhibition. These studies add a greatly needed additional target into the drug discovery pipeline for this deadly parasitic infection.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology