The antimalarial natural product symplostatin 4 is a nanomolar inhibitor of the food vacuole falcipains.
Stolze SC., Deu E., Kaschani F., Li N., Florea BI., Richau KH., Colby T., van der Hoorn RA., Overkleeft HS., Bogyo M., Kaiser M.
The marine natural product symplostatin 4 (Sym4) has been recognized as a potent antimalarial agent. However, its mode of action and, in particular, direct targets have to date remained elusive. We report a chemical synthesis of Sym4 and show that Sym4-treatment of P. falciparum-infected red blood cells (RBCs) results in the generation of a swollen food vacuole phenotype and a reduction of parasitemia at nanomolar concentrations. We furthermore demonstrate that Sym4 is a nanomolar inhibitor of the P. falciparum falcipains in infected RBCs, suggesting inhibition of the hemoglobin degradation pathway as Sym4's mode of action. Finally, we reveal a critical influence of the unusual methyl-methoxypyrrolinone (mmp) group of Sym4 for potent inhibition, indicating that Sym4 derivatives with such a mmp moiety might represent viable lead structures for the development of antimalarial falcipain inhibitors.