An Antiparasitic Compound from the Medicines for Malaria Venture Pathogen Box Promotes Leishmania Tubulin Polymerization

Imran Ullah, Suraksha Gahalawat, Laela M. Booshehri, Hanspeter Niederstrasser, Shreoshi Majumdar, Christopher Leija, James M. Bradford, Bin Hu, Joseph M. Ready, Dawn M. Wetzel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The few frontline antileishmanial drugs are poorly effective and toxic. To search for new drugs for this neglected tropical disease, we tested the activity of compounds in the Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) "Pathogen Box"against Leishmania amazonensis axenic amastigotes. Screening yielded six discovery antileishmanial compounds with EC50 values from 50 to 480 nM. Concentration-response assays demonstrated that the best hit, MMV676477, had mid-nanomolar cytocidal potency against intracellular Leishmania amastigotes, Trypanosoma brucei, and Plasmodium falciparum, suggesting broad antiparasitic activity. We explored structure-Activity relationships (SAR) within a small group of MMV676477 analogs and observed a wide potency range (20-5000 nM) against axenic Leishmania amastigotes. Compared to MMV676477, our most potent analog, SW41, had â 5-fold improved antileishmanial potency. Multiple lines of evidence suggest that MMV676477 selectively disrupts Leishmania tubulin dynamics. Morphological studies indicated that MMV676477 and analogs affected L. amazonensis during cell division. Differential centrifugation showed that MMV676477 promoted partitioning of cellular tubulin toward the polymeric form in parasites. Turbidity assays with purified Leishmania and porcine tubulin demonstrated that MMV676477 promoted leishmanial tubulin polymerization in a concentration-dependent manner. Analogs' antiparasitic activity correlated with their ability to facilitate purified Leishmania tubulin polymerization. Chemical cross-linking demonstrated binding of the MMV676477 scaffold to purified Leishmania tubulin, and competition studies established a correlation between binding and antileishmanial activity. Our studies demonstrate that MMV676477 is a potent antiparasitic compound that preferentially promotes Leishmania microtubule polymerization. Due to its selectivity for and broad-spectrum activity against multiple parasites, this scaffold shows promise for antiparasitic drug development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2057-2072
Number of pages16
JournalACS infectious diseases
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 14 2020


  • Leishmania
  • MMV
  • drug discovery
  • parasite
  • pathogen
  • tubulin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Infectious Diseases


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