CYP51: A major drug target in the cytochrome P450 superfamily

Galina I. Lepesheva, Tatyana Y. Hargrove, Yuliya Kleshchenko, W. David Nes, Fernando Villalta, Michael R. Waterman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Scopus citations


The cytochrome P540 (CYP) superfamily currently includes about 9,000 proteins forming more than 800 families. The enzymes catalyze monooxygenation of a vast array of compounds and play essentially two roles. They provide biodefense (detoxification of xenobiotics, antibiotic production) and participate in biosynthesis of important endogenous molecules, particularly steroids. Based on these two roles, sterol 14|*alpha*|-demethylases (CYP51) belong to the second group of P450s. The CYP51 family, however, is very special as its members preserve strict functional conservation in enzyme activity in all biological kingdoms. At amino acid identity across the kingdoms as low as 25-30%, they all catalyze essentially the same three-step reaction of oxidative removal of the 14|*alpha*|-methyl group from the lanostane frame. This reaction is the required step in sterol biosynthesis of pathogenic microbes. We have shown that specific inhibition of protozoan CYP51 can potentially provide treatment for human trypanosomiases. Three sets of CYP51 inhibitors tested in vitro and in trypanosomal cells in this study include azoles [best results being 50% cell growth inhibition at <1 and at 1.3 μM for Trypanosoma cruzi (TC) and Trypanosoma brucei (TB), respectively], non-azole compounds (50% TC cell growth inhibition at 5 μM) and substrate analogs of the 14|*alpha*|-demethylase reaction. 32-Methylene cyclopropyl lanost-7-enol exhibited selectivity toward TC with 50% cell growth inhibition at 3 μM.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1117-1125
Number of pages9
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2008


  • Antifungal agents
  • Antitrypanosomal drugs
  • Chagas disease
  • Cytochrome P450 (CYP51)
  • Enzymatic activity
  • Inhibition
  • Sleeping sickness
  • Sterol 14α-demethylase
  • Sterol biosynthesis


Dive into the research topics of 'CYP51: A major drug target in the cytochrome P450 superfamily'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this