Crystal structure of dihydrofolate reductase from the filarial nematode W. bancrofti in complex with NADPH and folate

Keith Lange, Kathleen M. Frey, Tyler Eck, Cheryl A. Janson, Ueli Gubler, Nina M. Goodey

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Lymphatic filariasis is a debilitating illness with an estimated 50 million cases as of 2018. The majority of cases are caused by the parasitic worm W. bancrofti and additional cases by the worms B. malayi and B. timori. Dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR) is an established target in the treatment of cancer, bacterial, and protozoal infections and may be a potential target for drugs targeting parasitic worm infections, including filariasis. Recent studies have shown that known antifolate compounds, including methotrexate, inhibit the activity of W. bancrofti DHFR (WbDHFR). However, the absence of structural information for filarial DHFRs has limited the study of more in-depth structure-function relationships. We report the structure of WbDHFR complexed with NADPH and folate using X-ray diffraction data measured to 2.47 Å resolution. The structure of WbDHFR reveals the usual DHFR fold and is currently only the second nematode DHFR structure in the Protein Data Bank. The equilibrium dissocia-tion constants for NADPH (90 ± 29 nM) and folate (23 ± 4 nM) were determined by equilibrium titrations. The interactions of known antifolates with WbDHFR were analyzed using molecular docking programs and molecular dynamics simulations. Antifolates with a hydro-phobic core and extended linker formed favorable interactions with WbDHFR. These com-bined data should now facilitate the rational design of filarial DHFR inhibitors, which in turn can be used to determine whether DHFR is a viable drug target for filariasis and whether existing antifolates may be repurposed for its treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0011303
JournalPLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2023


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