Antileishmanial activity of cryptolepine analogues and apoptotic effects of 2,7-dibromocryptolepine against Leishmania donovani promastigotes
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- Hazra, S., Ghosh, S., Debnath, S. et al. Parasitol Res (2012) 111: 195. doi:10.1007/s00436-012-2818-9
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Cryptolepine (5-methyl-10H-indolo [3, 2-b] quinoline), an indoloquinoline alkaloid (1) isolated from a medicinal plant traditionally used in Western Africa for treatment of malaria, has been shown to possess broad spectrum biological activity in addition to its antiplasmodial effect. Here, the antileishmanial properties of 11 synthetic derivatives of cryptolepine against Leishmania donovani parasites have been evaluated for the first time. 2,7-Dibromocryptolepine (8; IC50 0.5 ± 0.1 μM) was found to be the most active analogue against the promastigote form of a classical L. donovani strain (AG83) in comparison to the natural alkaloid, cryptolepine (1; IC50 1.6 ± 0.1 μM). Further, 8 was found to substantially inhibit the intracellular amastigote forms of two clinical isolates, one of them being an SbV-resistant strain of L. donovani. Moreover, the toxicity of 8 against normal mouse peritoneal macrophage cells was markedly lower than that of 1 (IC50 values: 9.0 ± 1.2 and 1.1 ± 0.3 μM, respectively), indicating 8 to be a prospective “lead” towards novel antileishmanial therapy. This was supported by studies on the mechanism of cytotoxicity induced by 8 in L. donovani promastigotes (AG83), which revealed the cytoplasmic and nuclear features of metazoan apoptosis. Light microscopic observation demonstrated a gradual decline in the motility, cell volume, and survival of the treated parasites with increasing incubation time. Flow cytometric analysis of phosphatidylserine externalization and distribution of cells in different phases of cell cycle confirmed the presence of a substantial percentage of cells in early apoptotic stage. Disruption of mitochondrial membrane integrity in terms of depolarization of membrane potential, and finally degradation of chromosomal DNA into oligonucleosomal fragments—the hallmark event of apoptosis—characterized the mode of cell death in L. donovani promastigotes.