Crystal Structures of Trypanosoma brucei Sterol 14 alpha-Demethylase and Implications for Selective Treatment of Human Infections

Galina I. Lepesheva, Hee-Won Park, Tatiana Y. Hargrove, Benoit Vanhollebeke, Zdzislaw Wawrzak, Joel M. Harp, Munirathinam Sundaramoorthy, William Nes, Etienne Pays, Minu Chaudhuri, Fernando Villalta, Michael R. Waterman

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111 Scopus citations


Sterol 14α-demethylase (14DM, the CYP51 family of cytochrome P450) is an essential enzyme in sterol biosynthesis in eukaryotes. It serves as a major drug target for fungal diseases and can potentially become a target for treatment of human infections with protozoa. Here we present 1.9 Å resolution crystal structures of 14DM from the protozoan pathogen Trypanosoma brucei, ligand-free and complexed with a strong chemically selected inhibitor N-1-(2,4-dichlorophenyl)-2-(1H-imidazol-1-yl)ethyl)-4-(5-phenyl-1,3, 4-oxadi-azol-2-yl)benzamide that we previously found to produce potent antiparasitic effects in Trypanosomatidae. This is the first structure of a eukaryotic microsomal 14DM that acts on sterol biosynthesis, and it differs profoundly from that of the water-soluble CYP51 family member from Mycobacterium tuberculosis, both in organization of the active site cavity and in the substrate access channel location. Inhibitor binding does not cause large scale conformational rearrangements, yet induces unanticipated local alterations in the active site, including formation of a hydrogen bond network that connects, via the inhibitor amide group fragment, two remote functionally essential protein segments and alters the heme environment. The inhibitor binding mode provides a possible explanation for both its functionally irreversible effect on the enzyme activity and its selectivity toward the14DM from human pathogens versus the human 14DM ortholog. The structures shed new light on 14DM functional conservation and open an excellent opportunity for directed design of novel antiparasitic drugs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1773-1780
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 15 2010


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