Plasmodium falciparum (P. falciparum) is the main parasite known to cause malaria in humans. The antimalarial drug atovaquone is known to inhibit the Qo-site of the cytochrome bc1 complex of P. falciparum, which ultimately blocks ATP synthesis, leading to cell death. Through the years, mutations of the P. falciparum cytochrome bc1 complex, causing resistance to atovaquone, have emerged.
Atovaquone (AV) acts on the malaria parasite by competing with ubiquinol (UQH2) for its union to the mitochondrial bc1 complex, preventing the ubiquinone-8,9 (UQ) redox recycling, which is a necessary step in pyrimidine biosynthesis. This study focused on UQ biosynthesis in Plasmodium falciparum and adopted proof-of-concept research to better elucidate the mechanism of action of AV and improve its efficacy. Initially, UQ biosynthesis was evaluated using several radioactive precursors and chromatographic techniques.
Atovaquone belongs to a naphthoquinone class of drugs and is used in combination with proguanil (Malarone) for the treatment of acute, uncomplicated malaria caused by Plasmodium falciparum (including chloroquine-resistant P. falciparum/P. vivax). Numerous quinone-derived compounds have attracted considerable attention in the last few decades due to their potential in antimalarial drug discovery.
Proguanil in combination with its synergistic partner atovaquone has been used for malaria treatment and prophylaxis for decades. However its mode of action is not fully understood. Here we used yeast to investigate its activity. Proguanil inhibits yeast growth, causes cell death and acts in synergy with atovaquone. It was previously proposed that the drug would target the system that maintains the mitochondrial membrane potential when the respiratory chain is inhibited.
The natural naphthoquinones lapachol, α- and β-lapachone are found in Bignoniaceous Brazilian plant species of the Tabebuia genus (synonym Handroanthus) and are recognized for diverse bioactivities, including as antimalarial. The aim of the present work was to perform in silico, in vitro and in vivo studies to evaluating the antimalarial potential of these three naphthoquinones in comparison with atovaquone, a synthetic antimalarial.