Screening the Medicines for Malaria Venture Pathogen Box for invasion and egress inhibitors of the blood stage of Plasmodium falciparum reveals several inhibitory compounds
To identify potential inhibitors of egress and invasion in the asexual blood stage of Plasmodium falciparum , we screened the Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) Pathogen Box. This compound library comprises of 400 drugs against neglected tropical diseases, including 125 with antimalarial activity. For this screen, we utilised transgenic parasites expressing a bioluminescent reporter, Nanoluciferase (Nluc), to measure inhibition of parasite egress and invasion in the presence of the Pathogen Box compounds. At a concentration of 2 µM, we found 15 compounds that inhibited parasite egress by >40% and 24 invasion-specific compounds that inhibited invasion by >90%. We further characterised 11 of these inhibitors through cell-based assays and live cell microscopy and found two compounds that inhibited merozoite maturation in schizonts, one compound that inhibited merozoite egress, one compound that directly inhibited parasite invasion and one compound that slowed down invasion and arrested ring formation. The remaining compounds were general growth inhibitors that acted during the egress and invasion phase of the cell cycle. We found the sulfonylpiperazine, MMV020291, to be the most invasion-specific inhibitor, blocking successful merozoite internalisation within human RBCs and having no substantial effect on other stages of the cell cycle. This has greater implications for the possible development of an invasion-specific inhibitor as an antimalarial in a combination based therapy, in addition to being a useful tool for studying the biology of the invading parasite.