Rational inhibitor design and iterative screening in the identification of selective plasmodial cyclin dependent kinase inhibitors

Susan M. Keenan, Jeanne A. Geyer, William J. Welsh, Sean T. Prigge, Norman C. Waters

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


New chemical classes of compounds must be introduced into the malaria drug development pipeline in an effort to develop new chemotherapy options for the fight against malaria. In this review we describe an iterative approach designed to identify potent inhibitors of a kinase family that collectively functions as key regulators of the cell cycle. Cyclin-dependent protein kinases (CDKs) are attractive drug targets in numerous diseases and, most recently, they have become the focus of rational drug design programs for the development of new antimalarial agents. Our approach uses experimental and virtual screening methodologies to identify and refine chemical inhibitors and increase the success rate of discovering potent and selective inhibitors. The active pockets of the plasmodial CDKs are unique in terms of size, shape and amino acid composition compared with those of the mammalian orthologues. These differences exemplified through the use of screening assays, molecular modeling, and crystallography can be exploited for inhibitor design. To date, several classes of compounds including quinolines and oxindoles have been identified as selective inhibitors of the plasmodial CDK7 homologue, Pfmrk. From these initial studies and through the iterative rational drug design process, more potent, selective, and most importantly, chemically unique compound classes have been identified as effective inhibitors of the plasmodial CDKs and the malarial parasite.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-38
Number of pages12
JournalCombinatorial Chemistry and High Throughput Screening
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Drug Discovery
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Organic Chemistry


  • CDK Pfmrk
  • In silico
  • Inhibitors
  • Malaria
  • Plasmodium falciparum
  • Rational drug design
  • Virtual screening


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