, Volume 32, Issue 3, pp 531-536
Date: 27 May 2007

Three-dimensional structure of heat shock protein 90 from Plasmodium falciparum: molecular modelling approach to rational drug design against malaria

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We have recently implicated heat shock protein 90 from Plasmodium falciparum (PfHsp90) as a potential drug target against malaria. Using inhibitors specific to the nucleotide binding domain of Hsp90, we have shown potent growth inhibitory effects on development of malarial parasite in human erythrocytes. To gain better understanding of the vital role played by PfHsp90 in parasite growth, we have modeled its three dimensional structure using recently described full length structure of yeast Hsp90. Sequence similarity found between PfHsp90 and yeast Hsp90 allowed us to model the core structure with high confidence. The superimposition of the predicted structure with that of the template yeast Hsp90 structure reveals an RMSD of 3.31 Å. The N-terminal and middle domains showed the least RMSD (1.76 Å) while the more divergent C-terminus showed a greater RMSD (2.84 Å) with respect to the template. The structure shows overall conservation of domains involved in nucleotide binding, ATPase activity, co-chaperone binding as well as inter-subunit interactions. Important co-chaperones known to mdulate Hsp90 function in other eukaryotes are conserved in malarial parasite as well. An acidic stretch of amino acids found in the linker region, which is uniquely extended in PfHsp90 could not be modeled in this structure suggesting a flexible conformation. Our results provide a basis to compare the overall structure and functional pathways dependent on PfHsp90 in malarial parasite. Further analysis of differences found between human and parasite Hsp90 may make it possible to design inhibitors targeted specifically against malaria.