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Djeneb Camara

The biosynthesis of folates: Biochemical characterization of p-aminobenzoate formation and search of new inhibitors

Published on 30 September 2011

Thesis presented September 30, 2011

The term folate (vitamin B9) is a family of molecules with a basic structure composed of 3 parts: a core pterin, a para amino benzoic acid (PABA) moiety and a chain of glutamate. The role of these cofactors is to carry one-carbon groups. They are involved in many reactions such as the synthesis of nucleic acids, the synthesis of methionine and the synthesis and turnover of S-adenosylmethionine. Folate is synthesized in plants and many micro-organisms including parasites of the Apicomplexa phylum such as Plasmodium falciparum and Toxoplasma gondii. Several enzymes involved in the pathway are absent in humans, and so they are potential targets for herbicide, antibiotic and antiparasitic drugs. Inhibitors of folate biosynthesis (such as dihydropteroate synthase inhibitors, or inhibitors of dihydrofolate reductase), are often used as antibiotics and pesticides. A major problem in treating these infectious diseases is the resistance developed against these molecules, which requires a constant search for new drugs.
pABA is synthesized in several steps which are all attractive targets for developing new inhibitors. First the aminodeoxychorismate (ADC) synthase converts chorismate into ADC, and then, in a second step, the ADC is converted to pABA by an ADC lyase. In higher plants and apicomplexan parasites the ADC synthase is a bifunctional enzyme composed of two main domains: a glutamine amidotranferase (GAT) domain that produces NH3, and an ADC synthase domain (ADCS) that catalyzes the amination of chorismate. We determined the kinetic parameters of the Arabidopsis GAT-ADCS. We found that these two domains function independently, that is to say either in the presence of glutamine alone for the GAT domain (no chorismate) or in the presence of chorismate and NH3 for the ADCS domain (no glutamine). However, the tandem operation of the two domains (all substrates are present) improves the kinetic properties (kcat) of each one. Our results also show that the NH3 produced by the GAT domain and required for the synthesis of ADC is not released into the surroundings but rather channeled to the active site of ADCS. Finally, we observed that ADC, the final product of the reaction, retro-inhibits the ADCS domain in the absence of ADC lyase. Taken together, our results indicate that the amination reaction of chorismate​ is the most limiting step of the synthesis of pABA.
Using high-throughput screening approaches we have identified a molecule, rubreserine, which inhibits in vitro the GAT domain of Arabidopsis GAT-ADCS with a Ki value around 8 µM. We observed that this molecule inhibits the growth of Arabidopsis thaliana seedlings and the proliferation of Toxoplasma gondii and Plasmodium falciparum parasites with respective IC50 of 65 µM, 20 µM and 1 µM. In Arabidopsis, the concentration of folate in rubreserine-treated cells is lowered by about 40% compared to controls, a decrease that is suppressed in the presence of pABA. The addition of pABA and 5-Formyltetrahydrofolate in the culture media of Arabidopsis and Toxoplasma partly reverses the growth inhibition due to rubreserine, which shows the connection between the drug and folate biosynthesis. Rubreserine appears more effective than sulfa-drugs to block the invasion and proliferation of Toxoplasma gondii in human fibroblasts. These results validate the GAT-ADCS as an anti-folate target and show that rubreserine has interesting anti-parasitic properties.

Plants, apicomplexa, folates, anti-folates, p-aminobenzoic acid, glutamine amidotransferase, aminodeoxychorismate synthase, Arabidopsis thaliana, Toxoplasma gondii, Plasmodium falciparum

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