The intra-erythrocyte stage of P. falciparum relies primarily on glycolysis to generate adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and the energy required to support growth and reproduction. Lactic acid, a metabolic byproduct of glycolysis, is potentially toxic as it lowers the pH inside the parasite. Plasmodium falciparum formate-nitrite transporter (PfFNT), a 34-kDa transmembrane protein, has been identified as a novel drug target as it exports lactate from inside the parasite to the surrounding parasitophorous vacuole within the erythrocyte cytosol.
The protozoan parasite Plasmodium falciparum causes the most severe and prevailing form of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa. Previously, we identified the plasmodial lactate transporter, PfFNT, a member of the microbial formate-nitrite transporter family, as a novel antimalarial drug target. With the pentafluoro-3-hydroxy-pent-2-en-1-ones, we discovered PfFNT inhibitors that potently kill P. falciparum parasites in vitro.
The spreading of malaria parasites, Plasmodium falciparum, with resistance to all known drugs calls for novel classes of inhibitors with new modes of action. Recently, we discovered and validated the plasmodial L-lactate transporter, PfFNT, as a novel antimalarial drug target. However, treatment of parasites with a screening hit from the malaria box compound collection, MMV007839, gave rise to a PfFNT Gly107Ser resistance mutation decreasing inhibitor affinity by two orders of magnitude.