Expression, purification, and inhibition profile of dihydrofolate reductase from the filarial nematode Wuchereria bancrofti

Andrew M. Tobias, Dea Toska, Keith Lange, Tyler Eck, Rohit Bhat, Cheryl A. Janson, David P. Rotella, Ueli Gubler, Nina M. Goodey

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11 Scopus citations


Filariasis is a tropical disease caused by the parasitic nematodes Wuchereria bancrofti and Brugia malayi. Known inhibitors of dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR) have been previously shown to kill Brugia malayi nematodes and to inhibit Brugia malayi DHFR (BmDHFR) at nanomolar concentrations. These data suggest that BmDHFR is a potential target for the treatment of filariasis. Here, protocols for cloning, expression and purification of Wuchereria bancrofti DHFR (WbDHFR) were developed. The Uniprot entry J9F199-1 predicts a 172 amino acid protein for WbDHFR but alignment of this sequence to the previously described BmDHFR shows that this WbDHFR sequence lacks a crucial, conserved 13 amino acid loop. The presence of the loop in WbDHFR is supported by a noncanonical splicing event and the loop sequence was therefore included in the gene design. Subsequently, the KM for dihydrofolate (3.7 ± 2 μM), kcat (7.4 ± 0.6 s-1), and pH dependence of activity were determined. IC50 values of methotrexate, trimethoprim, pyrimethamine, raltitrexed, aminopterin, (-)-epicatechin gallate, (-)-epicatechin, and vitexin were measured for WbDHFR and BmDHFR. Methotrexate and structurally related aminopterin were found to be effective inhibitors of WbDHFR, with an KI of 1.2 ± 0.2 nM and 2.1 ± 0.5 nM, respectively, suggesting that repurposing of known antifolate compound may be an effective strategy to treating filariasis. Most compounds showed similar inhibition profiles toward both enzymes, suggesting that the two enzymes have important similarities in their active site environments and can be targeted with the same compound, once a successful inhibitor is identified.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0197173
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2018


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