Identification of potential inhibitors of casein kinase 2 alpha of Plasmodium falciparum with potent in vitro activity

Kaira C.P. Tomaz, Tatyana A. Tavella, Joyce V.B. Borba, Luis C. Salazar-Alvarez, João E. Levandoski, Melina Mottin, Bruna K.P. Sousa, José T. Moreira-Filho, Vitor M. Almeida, Leandro C. Clementino, Catarina Bourgard, Katlin B. Massirer, Rafael M. Couñago, Carolina H. Andrade, Per Sunnerhagen, Elizabeth Bilsland, Gustavo C. Cassiano, Fabio T.M. Costa

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Drug resistance to commercially available antimalarials is a major obstacle in malaria control and elimination, creating the need to find new antiparasitic compounds with novel mechanisms of action. The success of kinase inhibitors for oncological treatments has paved the way for the exploitation of protein kinases as drug targets in various diseases, including malaria. Casein kinases are ubiquitous serine/threonine kinases involved in a wide range of cellular processes such as mitotic checkpoint signaling, DNA damage response, and circadian rhythm. In Plasmodium, it is suggested that these protein kinases are essential for both asexual and sexual blood-stage parasites, reinforcing their potential as targets for multi-stage antimalarials. To identify new putative PfCK2α inhibitors, we utilized an in silico chemogenomic strategy involving virtual screening with docking simulations and quantitative structure-activity relationship predictions. Our investigation resulted in the discovery of a new quinazoline molecule (542), which exhibited potent activity against asexual blood stages and a high selectivity index (>100). Subsequently, we conducted chemical-genetic interaction analysis on yeasts with mutations in casein kinases. Our chemical-genetic interaction results are consistent with the hypothesis that 542 inhibits yeast Cka1, which has a hinge region with high similarity to PfCK2α. This finding is in agreement with our in silico results suggesting that 542 inhibits PfCK2α via hinge region interaction.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0058923
Number of pages15
JournalAntimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2023


  • antimalarials
  • docking
  • malaria
  • quinazoline
  • virtual screening


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