Target Identification and Mechanism of Action Studies in Folate Metabolism in Kinetoplastids

  • Lauren Webster

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    Poverty stricken areas of the world are affected by Neglected Tropical Diseases, with an estimated 1 billion sufferers. As well as inadequate living conditions and healthcare, there has been very little pharmaceutical incentive to tackle these diseases. As a result, the diseases are still spreading. Drugs available on the market suffer from poor efficacy, high toxicity, increasing resistance and inappropriate dosing for rural treatment. The nature of many NTDs prevents the use of vaccinations. Therefore, more efficacious and safe treatments are sought after.

    The folate pathway has been extensively studied in a number of organisms, with its essentiality exploited in a number of drugs and drug targets. The same cannot be said for the kinetoplastids. Drug discovery programmes have focused on targeting enzymes of the folate metabolism with very little clinical success. Despite showing significant inhibition of the parasitic enzymes, potency is seen to decrease in cellular and animal models. Understanding how the folate pathway operates in these organisms could provide insight into where and how anti-folate compounds bind. This information could then be used to facilitate better drug treatments for the kinetoplastids.

    This thesis describes a number of approaches undertaken to better understand folate metabolism in kinetoplastids. Clinical and literature anti-folate compounds were immobilized onto resins, followed by chemical proteomics, utilizing novel techniques (iTRAQ), to allow for target identification. Using competition studies, specific and non-specific targets were identified in parasitic lysate (T. brucei and L. major) for each anti-folate compound. This method was further exploited by creating a folate resin (Folate beads). The resin had the potential to pull down 9 proteins from the “folate-ome”. In future studies, the resin can be used to enrich for the folate proteins in kinetoplastids and related organisms.

    Alongside the studies of the folate proteins, it was also desired to study proteins involved in the essential pterin pathway. This pathway has not been extensively studied in kintoplastids, with the exception of PTR1 (by-pass protein for DHFR). The failure to synthesise pterin derivatives for bead coupling led to a fragment screening campaign being carried out on QDPR in leishmania major. Working through a triage workflow, two moderately potent fragments were identified, showing inhibition against LmQDPR. Through structure-free optimization strategies, greater than 100 optimized fragments were synthesised in a bid to understand SAR. Although this work remains incomplete, LmQDPR has been successfully crystalized with 23 hit fragments, which are awaiting further biophysical analysis to understand binding.
    Date of Award2014
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorIan Gilbert (Supervisor)


    • Folate
    • Kinetoplastid
    • Proteomics

    Cite this