The proteasome as a target to combat malaria: hits and misses

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The proteasome plays a vital role throughout the life cycle as Plasmodium parasites quickly adapt to a new host and undergo a series of morphologic changes during asexual replication and sexual differentiation. Plasmodium carries 3 different types of protease complexes: typical eukaryotic proteasome (26S) that resides in the cytoplasm and the nucleus, a prokaryotic proteasome homolog ClpQ that resides in the mitochondria, and a caseinolytic protease complex ClpP that resides in the apicoplast. In silico prediction in conjunction with immunoprecipitation analysis of ubiquitin conjugates have suggested that over half of the Plasmodium falciparum proteome during asexual reproduction are potential targets for ubiquitination. The marked potency of multiple classes of proteasome inhibitors against all stages of the life cycle, synergy with the current frontline antimalarial, artemisinin, and recent advances identifying differences between Plasmodium and human proteasomes strongly support further drug development efforts.

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